Research continues efforts to find new solutions for Alzheimer’s. A new study carried out by researchers at the Biodesign Institute of Arizona State University (USA), published in “Molecular Psychiatry”, has found that the nutrient choline is capable of fighting Alzheimer’s across generations.
A natural nutrient can fight Alzheimer’s across generations
A new study explored the possibility of finding a simple and safe treatment to fight Alzheimer’s. Italian researcher Salvatore Oddo, one of the lead authors, found that the effects of choline, a nutrient found in foods such as egg yolks and wheat germ, may help fight Alzheimer’s. Studies were conducted on pregnant and nursing mice with symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s. Researchers observed that mice that were given a diet rich in choline showed improvements in spatial memory. It was also observed that the offspring of these same mice showed improvements as well, while the offspring of mice that were fed a normal diet did not. Surprisingly, the beneficial effects of choline appear to be transgenerational. Offspring with improved spatial memory did not receive the treatment directly, but reaped the same benefits, probably due to hereditary changes in DNA. Studying these epigenetic changes could open new doors in the research of treatments for other hereditary diseases, including fetal alcohol syndrome and obesity.
The effects of choline and hope for a new cure
Choline protects the brain from Alzheimer’s in two different ways. Firstly, it reduces levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that acts as a powerful neurotoxin and that produces neurodegeneration and the formation of amyloid plaques, two distinctive characteristics of Alzheimer’s. Secondly, choline reduces the activation of microglia cells, which are responsible for removing debris in the brain. Under normal circumstances, these cells carry out an essential cleaning function. Yet in the case of Alzheimer’s, these cells can get out of control, causing brain inflammation that can eventually lead to neuronal death. For this reason, choline’s capacity to reduce the activation of microglia cells is a very important discovery.
Even though research for a cure to Alzheimer’s has not been very successful, forcing experimentation to focus more on prevention, choline could become a future candidate to successfully and safely treating Alzheimer’s. Researchers note that it takes at least 9 times the recommended daily dose of choline to produce harmful side effects, but further research is needed in order to explore the effects and determine its effectiveness. “The most remarkable data that emerged from this study was discovering that the benefits of the nutrient choline were found even in the offspring of the animals that were treated”, explains Salvatore Oddo. “Choline is currently recommended in the USA for pregnant women. Choline is a non-toxic substance that could become an interesting approach in fighting Alzheimer’s”. Oddo’s team continues to gather essential data for the next important step in their research- clinical trials in humans.
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