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318 • Health and Nutrition Secrets That Can Save Your Life

be associated with iron overload, including alcoholism, heavy smoking, African siderosis, sideroblastic anemia and thalassemia. Due to persistently high concentrations of iron, liver

disease eventually appears. The constant free‑radical generation caused by high free iron

levels in the liver leads to liver cell destruction and fibrosis.

Treatment

We also see a dramatic increase in heart attacks and strokes in these same individuals. Most cases are treated by repeated transfusions, which is quite effective in ridding the body of excess iron. The success of this practice even lends credence to the ancient treatment of bloodletting. Maybe they weren’t so ignorant after all! An easier way to remove excess iron is with a chemical known as IP‑6, which tightly binds iron, preventing it from harming you. It can be taken as a capsule with meals to remove the iron from your food. When absorbed, it chelates iron from your tissues.

Stress and Brain Aging

Studies have shown that stress increases the death of specific brain cells, especially those

concerned with memory and orientation, the very ones affected by Alzheimer’s disease. To a large degree this is due to the fact that prolonged stress of any kind dramatically increases free‑radical generation and lipid peroxidation in the brain.

Two hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, appear to be responsible for most of the destructive effects. When we experience stress, both hormones are released in large concentrations and as we age, cortisol release is more prolonged. The physiological events that occur with stress are called allostasis; unrelieved stress is known as an allostatic load.

Dr. Bruce McEwen, director of the Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology at Rockefeller University has demonstrated through a series of experiments conducted on animals the importance of the brain’s response to the allostatic load. He found that unrelieved stress could destroy stem cells in a portion of the hippocampus of the brain, which is vital to memory storage and which contains more cortisol receptors than any other part of the brain. 467 In addition, stress destroyed synaptic connections and dendrites as well.

Further, he found the process was reversible if stress was eventually stopped. With his experimental animals, the limit was twenty‑eight days. After that, permanent changes took place. In fact, Dr. Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University found that stress beyond this period actually killed brain cells. The mechanism of brain‑cell destruction involves oxida‑ tion of these hormones, as well as interaction with the excitotoxin, glutamate.

How to Protect Your Brain

Let’s put it all together. The brain contains neurons that never divide, and astrocytes and microglia, which can. Those that cannot divide are vulnerable to accumulated lifetime damage from free radicals and lipid peroxidation. The DNA damage that is not repaired prevents cells from performing normal functions, and the neuron suffers from impaired energy production, decreased membrane repair, and damaged neurotransmitter production.

Protecting Your Brain • 319

Numerous conditions can activate the brain’s special immune system, including excess iron, glutamate, certain cytokines, lipid‑peroxidation products, mercury, oxidized LDL and HDL, and beta amyloid. 468 This means that as we grow older our immune system begins to attack our own brain.

Protecting the brain requires that we address all of these factors. For example, we know that the brain contains its own LDL‑ and HDL‑type lipoproteins, just like those found in the blood. They become harmful only when oxidized, and can then promote excitotoxicity, free radical production and microglial activation. 469 Flavonoids, especially epicatechin, have been found to prevent oxidation of LDL and HDL in the brain. Epicatechin is found in grape seed extract and green tea, which may explain in part why their consumption improves cognitive ability. 470

Hormones also play a vital role in preserving our brains. As we age, DHEA—an adrenal hormone precursor for production of the reproductive hormones, estrogen and testosterone— levels begin to fall. Interestingly, the brain contains receptors for DHEA, and several studies have shown that these receptors are capable of protecting the brain against damage. 471

Depression is a major problem in the elderly and DHEA may be able to help. One recent study found that when DHEA was given to elderly patients with major depression, all but one improved significantly. 472 The big surprise was that memory also improved significantly. The one patient that did not respond continued on the DHEA, and after six months her depression rating improved 48‑72 percent and her semantic memory improved 63 percent.

The brain also contains receptors for pregnenolone. This adrenal hormone, which is a

precursor of DHEA and other steroid hormones, also protects brain cells. 473 Pregnenolone also declines with aging, showing a 60 percent reduction by age seventy‑five. It has many

interesting properties, several of which may make it useful in protecting the brain and

improving brain function. For example, it has powerful anti‑inflammatory properties, which may protect against Alzheimer’s disease. 474

One advantage of pregnenolone supplementation may be its ability to restore glutamate receptors in the brain, which are commonly lost with aging. While excess glutamate acts as an excitotoxin, the receptors are necessary for memory storage.

Several ongoing studies are investigating pregnenolone’s efficacy, and early results are conflicting. In one, significant behavioral complications were seen. In a more recent study

using larger doses of pregnenolone, improvement was seen. 475 The reason I do not generally recommend pregnenolone supplementation is that it is also the precursor for other adrenal steroid hormones, including cortisol, which is toxic to the aged brain. I believe more research is needed before pregnenolone can be recommended for general use.

Other hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, have also demonstrated protective properties. We know that patients on hormone replacement therapy have a significantly lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. 476 Several studies have also shown that estrogens and testosterone both protect brain cells from age‑related damage. 477

320 • Health and Nutrition Secrets That Can Save Your Life

Oxidative Stress & Aging

Oxidation of nuclear DNA in aged brains is four times higher than younger brains. Mitochondrial DNA oxidizes ten times faster than nuclear DNA. Mitochondrial DNA has fewer repair enzymes than nuclear DNA. Brain DNA oxidizes fifteen times faster after age seventy. Aged brain is more susceptible to oxidation, even with normal antioxidant levels.

TABLE 12.2

That there are receptors for these hormones in the brain may also help to explain behavioral changes associated with menopause.

Ginkgo Biloba, the Oldest Tree in the World

As I already mentioned, this herb has gotten a lot of attention because of its reputed ability to improve memory in the aged. We have already covered the ability of Ginkgo biloba to slightly thin the blood so as to prevent heart attack and strokes. In addition, we have seen

that its flavonoids powerfully protect the walls of blood vessels and prevent oxidation of

LDL cholesterol. This effect is very important in protecting the brain since oxidized LDL attached to brain cells can severely damage and even kill neurons.

First, let’s look at studies that have been done on less severe memory problems, such as

age‑ related memory loss. In one study, using thirty‑one people over age fifty with mild to moderate memory problems, those taking Ginkgo extract showed a significant improvement

in several standardized tests of brain function. In another study, eighteen elderly men and women with a slight age‑related memory problem were given the Ginkgo one hour before

the test, and then tested repeatedly on both visual and word identification to examine

infor mation‑processing by their brains. Those who took the Ginkgo extract (320 or 600 mg)

demonstrated a significant improvement in brain information processing.

A French study, using significantly more patients (166 geriatric patients) than the previous two studies, found those taking the Ginkgo extract demonstrated a significant improvement

in memory after three months, and that the effect continued to increase the longer they took the extract. The double‑blind, placebo‑controlled study used strict methodological condi ‑ tions to prevent error.

Dr. Pierre LeBars and his co‑workers, in a fifty‑two‑week study of 309 patients with mild to severe dementia, also found that a significant number of the patients improved while taking

the extract.

It has been shown that Ginkgo biloba not only protects brain cell membranes from damage,

it also restores their youthful fluidity; much of this protection is linked to antioxidant flavonoids found in the herb.

Protecting Your Brain • 321

We know that with diseases such as Alzheimer’s, connections between neurons — synapses—are most affected, and that millions of these synapses are lost long before there

is a significant loss of brain cells. This is important, since synapses can be regenerated as

long as neurons survive. Ginkgo biloba has been shown to be very protective of the brain’s

synapses. Interestingly, the flavonoid, quercetin, is also very protective.

As we age a certain enzyme, called MAO‑B, increases in our brain, and this enzyme can increase brain damage by producing harmful compounds. In Parkinson’s disease, one of the more effective drugs works by inhibiting this enzyme. Ginkgo biloba extract also inhibits

MAO‑B, as do several other flavonoids. It has been proposed that by inhibiting this enzyme,

Ginkgo acts to relieve stress and promote a sense of calm.

Ginkgo, even in low concentrations, also directly blocks excitotoxicity, and protects brain cells in the hippocampus from injury by beta‑amyloid, which is a microscopic collection of toxic crud seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. This crud kills surrounding brain cells by an excitotoxic process.

Finally, another way this herb may inhibit the development of dementia is by relieving brain stress. Older animals given the extract are better able to adapt to stressful situations.

With all we know about Ginkgo’s effectiveness in protecting the brain and in preventing strokes, it’s a shame that the medical community is struggling so hard to frighten the public into avoiding it. Especially when you consider that numerous studies have demonstrated its safety—while physicians continue to prescribe drugs that are not only less effective, but have frighteningly high rates of life‑threatening side effects and complications.

Increasing the Brain’s Energy Supply

Mitochondria produce about 95 percent of energy within cells: a lifetime of damage to

delicate membranes and DNA within these structures leads to significantly impaired

energy production throughout the body and the brain. Fortunately, improving lipids in the

membrane can go a long way in repairing the damage. This is done by improving diet and with special supplementation. In addition, increasing your antioxidant protection, mainly

vitamins, minerals and flavonoids, can reduce further damage to this energy‑generating

system.

Several special supplements that stimulate mitochondria are available without prescription, and can dramatically improve energy production, thereby improving brain function. I have

discussed CoQ10 throughout this book: this substance is the first in a line of five compounds

that constitute mitochondria’s energy‑supplying cycle—called the electron transport system.

CoQ10 is severely deficient in Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. In addition to increasing

brain‑cell energy production, it also acts as an antioxidant, protects the brain against excitotoxicity, increases cellular glutathione levels, and has been shown to improve memory as well as other brain functions. When combined with niacinamide, CoQ10 strongly protects against the damage seen in Parkinson’s disease.

322 • Health and Nutrition Secrets That Can Save Your Life

A recent study found that CoQ10 taken by mouth did enter the brain in useful concentra tions and that it protected brain cells against excitotoxic damage. In addition, CoQ10 protected neurons from viral damage, including mumps. CoQ10’s protective properties stem not only from its ability to increase brain‑cell energy production, but also its capacity to protect the mitochondrial membrane.

Alpha‑lipoic acid protects cells by acting as a powerful antioxidant, by chelating dangerous metals (arsenic, cadmium, and mercury), by increasing glucose transport into brain cells, by blocking excitotoxicity, and by altering gene expression. A recent study found that

supple menting old mice with alpha‑lipoic acid could significantly improve mitochondrial

function, reduce lipid‑peroxidation damage, and not only stop the age‑related decline in overall energy production, but reverse the aging of the cell’s mitochondria. Another study also found that alpha‑lipoic acid could reverse aging of the mitochondria, and improve memory function.

L‑carnitine’s major function is to guide fatty acids into the cell so they can be metabolized. Another form of this nutrient, called acetyl‑L‑carnitine is more suited for the brain because it enters the brain more easily than L‑carnitine. In addition acetyl‑L‑camitine can aid in the formation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which we know plays a vital role in memory.

Acetyl‑L‑carnitine is unique in its ability to provide a number of important protective functions. For example, it is an antioxidant, increases mitochondrial energy formation, chelates iron, increases brain glutathione levels, and increases brain levels of CoQ10. It has also been shown to reduce the amount of an age pigment in the brain called lipofuscin. It stabilizes membranes and reduces the loss of receptors in the brain. The latter is especially important, since the loss of brain neurotransmitter receptors is one of the hallmarks of brain aging, and is especially severe in Alzheimer’s disease.

Both experimental and clinical studies using acetyl‑L‑carnitine have demonstrated a signifi cant

capacity to slow, and even reverse, the effects of aging on the brain. Several studies have

shown that acetyl‑L‑camitine may be effective in slowing the course of Alzheimer’s disease, and in improving behavior and attention span in people with the disease.

By increasing brain‑cell energy production and brain‑cell repair, as well as providing antiox idant protection, vitamins and minerals also play an important part in protecting the brain from degeneration due to disease and aging. Most B vitamins, particularly thiamine and riboflavin, are involved in energy production. Folic acid, B12, B6 and niacinamide all contribute to DNA repair and synthesis. Vitamins C and E protect brain cells from oxidative damage and protect microvessels that feed the brain. Several studies have shown that vitamin C supplementation seems to protect the brain against Alzheimer’s disease and age‑related memory loss.

Because it is both a powerful antioxidant and is capable of blocking excitotoxicity, magne‑ sium is one of the most important minerals involved in protecting the brain. It is also vital

Protecting Your Brain • 323

for reactions that produce cellular energy. Magnesium depletion of the hippocampus also occurs in Alzheimer’s disease.

It is important to maintain proper levels of the antioxidant enzymes, manganese, selenium,

zinc and copper. While deficiencies can result in a significant increase in free‑radical damage

to the brain (thought to be a mechanism of injury in all degenerative diseases), there is also evidence that high brain concentrations can produce neurological injury. For example, excess zinc has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease and excess manganese produces a neurological disorder resembling parkinsonism.

Repairing the Damage

Nutritional abuse, toxic metal accumulations, pesticides and herbicides, industrial chemicals, viral invasions, immune disorders and other chronic diseases all add up to produce serious long‑term damage to the nervous system. These factors are interrelated in that they

Protecting Your Brain • 323 for reactions that produce cellular energy. Magnesium depletion of the hippocampus

FIGURE 12.1 Drawing demonstrating the complexity of the brain’s wiring.

324 • Health and Nutrition Secrets That Can Save Your Life

all spur the formation of free radicals and lipid peroxidation. Virtually all mechanics of aging lead back to cellular damage caused by free radicals and lipid peroxidation.

We produce huge numbers of free radicals throughout our lives, but the reason we are totally

unaware of it while we are young is that the human body has an incredible repair system that

involves hundreds of highly efficient enzymes, RNA, and DNA. Only a very small amount of

the injury goes unrepaired in youth.

It is instructive to examine a condition, called xeroderma pigmentosum, to get an idea of how

important this system really is. Because the cells of people afflicted with this disease lack

certain DNA repair enzymes, any exposure to sunlight causes severe, chronic damage to skin leading to multiple skin cancers. In fact, these peoples’ risk of skin cancer is two thousand times higher than people with normal repair mechanisms. Even risk of internal cancers is increased twelve times.

For those of us with normally functioning repair systems, we may be unaware that damage is occurring, but the small amount of damage that goes unrepaired begins to slowly mount. By the time we reach fifty‑five, this accumulated damage begins to affect cellular function and energy production in mitochondria—whose DNA lack the numerous repair mechanisms that protect nuclear DNA.

As we age, these injuries snowball. By seventy, for example, DNA damage occurs at a rate

fifteen times faster than it does in young people. Especially frightening is that the risk of

increased DNA damage exists even in people with normal antioxidant levels: adequate protection for older folks requires much higher levels of antioxidants. While young people

do well at ten servings a day of fruits and vegetables, the elderly need twelve servings to gain

health benefits. (Interestingly, younger people gain no further advantage after ten servings.)

It has been shown that people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease have impaired DNA repair. Whether this is inborn or develops as a result of the disease itself, we do not know for sure,

but the evidence seems to indicate that it plays a significant role in development of the

disease.

Melatonin and curcumin enhance production of repair enzymes, which then aid in repair

of pre‑existing DNA damage. When DNA is functioning properly, it can give the cell the information it needs to make repairs as well. Acetyl‑L‑camitine, CoQ10, alpha‑lipoic acid

and the NT Factor™ can repair membrane damage and return fluidity to this vital cellular

component.

Special lipid nutrients are also needed for membrane repair and are vital for maintaining a healthy nervous system: phosphotidylcholine, phosphotidylserine, phosphotidylethanol‑ amine and phosphotidylinositol. These special fatty acid molecules are found in rather high concentrations in egg yolks, or may be taken as supplements. Lecithin contains the major

phospholipids and could significantly improve recovery from brain trauma and stroke. In

addition, in studies, it improved age‑related memory loss and some cases of Alzheimer’s

Protecting Your Brain • 325

disease. Not only will lecithin aid in the repair of membranes, but it will also supply the brain with additional acetylcholine.

Phosphotidylserine has been getting a lot of attention lately because experimental studies

have shown that it can restore receptors on brain cells, which permit neurotransmitters to communicate with neurons, most frequently lost in Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical studies using phosphotidylserine have been promising, especially for mild memory loss associated with aging. One double‑blind, placebo‑controlled study of 494 people between the ages of

sixty‑five and ninety‑three, found that those supplemented with 300 mg a day demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in behavioral and cognitive testing. In a separate study,

Dr. T.H. Crook and colleagues found that the best effects were in elderly people who had the

greatest difficulty to begin with. In addition to its effects on memory and cogni tive brain function, phosphotidylserine also significantly relieves depression in the elderly.

The big question is: What will it do for the person with Alzheimer’s disease? Studies have

shown a significant improvement in behavior and some improvement in memory. The best

results were found in people with early disease.

Basic Supplementation

Whether or not you should consider special supplementation designed to protect the brain will depend on a number of factors. If you have lived a hard life, eaten poorly, exercised too little or too much, experienced prolonged, intense stress, or suffered from a chronic disease (such as diabetes, lupus or hypertension), you will most certainly need intensive nutritional therapy.

On the other hand, if you have always eaten nutritious foods, exercised regularly and in moderation, controlled stress, and suffered no chronic diseases, you can take minimal supplements to ensure adequate protection. For you, diet should be your main concern: a recent study found that blueberries, spinach, and strawberries provide the greatest protection against, and even reversal of, brain aging.

Recommendations

Vitamin C 500 mg (buffered)

Take one three times a day on an empty stomach.

Vitamin E 400 IU

Succinate or mixed tocopherols. Take two a day.

Propax™ with NT Factor™

Special Coverage for High‑Risk Individuals

All of the above plus:

DHA 100 mg

Take two capsules twice a day. Keep refrigerated.

326 • Health and Nutrition Secrets That Can Save Your Life

COQ10 100 mg

Take one twice to three times a day. Take with DHA.

N‑acetyl L‑cysteine (NA C) 500 mg‑750 mg

Take one twice a day.

Alpha‑lipoic acid 100 mg

Take one two to three times a day.

Niacinamide 500 mg

Take one twice a day.

Pyridoxal‑5 phosphate 34 mg

Take one three times a day with meals.

Phosphotidylcholine 750 mg

Take two capsules twice a day. Keep refrigerated.

Phosphotidylserine 100 mg

Take one three times a day.

Acetyl‑L‑carnitine 500 mg

Take one two to three times a day.

Curcumin 500 mg

Take one twice a day.

Quercetin 500 mg

Take one three times a day.

Milk Thistle 200 mg

Take two capsules twice a day.

DHEA

25‑50 mg a day under medical supervision only.

Vinpocetine 10 mg

Take one twice a day.

B‑100 multivitamin with minerals and no iron

Take one a day.