Does Double Dutch Delay Dementia?

Multilingual-HELLO1G’day, Zao shang hao, Bonjour, Kalimera, Boker tov, God morgen, Buon giomo, Bom dia, Zdravstvuyitye, Buenos dias!

Or if you prefer – Good Morning!

No it’s not one of those guess the country viral Facebook quizzes (although we will print the answers at the bottom of this post for those of you who want to play along).  No, the reason for today’s multilingual greetings is because a new study has shown that speaking more than one language can delay the onset of, not one, not two…but three types of dementia.

In the largest study on the topic to date, published this week in the online issue of Neurology, researchers found that people who spoke two languages developed dementia four and a half years later than people who only spoke one language.

Our study is the first to report an advantage of speaking two languages in people who are unable to read, suggesting that a person’s level of education is not a sufficient explanation for this difference,” said study author Suvarna Alladi. “Speaking more than one language is thought to lead to better development of the areas of the brain that handle executive functions and attention tasks, which may help protect from the onset of dementia.”

dementiaFor the study, 648 people from India with an average age of 66 who were diagnosed with dementia were evaluated. Of those, 391 spoke two or more languages. A total of 240 had Alzheimer’s disease, 189 had vascular dementia and 116 had frontotemporal dementia, with the remainder having dementia with Lewy bodies and mixed dementia. Fourteen percent were illiterate.

People who spoke two languages had a later onset of Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia than people who spoke only one language. The difference was also found in those who could not read. There was no additional benefit in speaking more than two languages.

The two-language effect on age of dementia onset was shown separately of other factors such as education, gender, occupation and whether participants lived in the city or country.

These results offer strong evidence for the protective effect of bilingualism against dementia in a population very different from those studied so far in terms of its ethnicity, culture and patterns of language use,” Alladi said.

Thanks languageWhile the study didn’t show any additional benefit in speaking more than two languages, we don’t think it hurts to try.

How many languages do you speak?

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Answers:

G’day [Australia] Zao shang hao [China], Bonjour [France] Kalimera [Greece] Boker tov [Israel] ,God morgen [Denmark], Buon giomo [Italy], Bom dia [Portugal], Zdravstvuyitye [Russia], Buenos dias [Spain]

Parkinson’s Disease Therapy May Cause More Harm Than Good

parkinsons 1In a surprise finding, a study by researchers from NorthShore University HealthSystem and the Mayo Clinic provides genetic and clinical evidence that some new Parkinson’s disease therapies may actually accelerate disease progression and increase the risk of becoming physically incapacitated and demented.

Specifically problematic are those therapies that target the expression of alpha-synuclein – a protein whose function in the healthy brain is unknown, but is a major constituent of Lewy bodies, protein clumps that are the pathological hallmark of Parkinson’s disease.

AlphaSynuclein3Since its discovery as a cause of familial Parkinson’s disease nearly 20 years ago, alpha-synuclein has been the focus of intensive efforts by researchers working to definitively characterize the protein’s role in idiopathic Parkinson’s disease and its potential as a target for neuroprotective therapies.

This news is particularly concerning given that a vaccine targeting alpha-synuclein in Parkinson’s patients is currently undergoing clinical testing in Parkinson’s patients and a number of molecules that target the protein for reduction are in advanced stages of preclinical development.  The vaccine candidate, from Austrian biotech AFFiRiS, works by binding to alpha-synuclein and subsequently clearing it from the brain.

parkinsons-diseaseAs of January 2012, The Michael J. Fox Foundation had invested over $47 million in projects targeting alpha-synuclein.

Our research suggests that therapies that seek to suppress alpha-synuclein in Parkinson’s disease may actually accelerate the disease process and increase the risk for developing severe physical disability and dementia,” said lead author Demetrius M. Maraganore, MD. “We believe it is our responsibility to release these data because this type of treatment may have long-term harmful effects.”

For the first time, we observed that, while over-expression of alpha-synuclein increases the risk for developing Parkinson’s disease, conversely, under-expression is associated with worse motor and cognitive outcomes after the disease starts,” adds study author Katerina Markopoulou, MD, PhD, a neurologist at NorthShore.

The researchers followed 1,098 Mayo Clinic patients for nearly 15 years  and sequenced the patients’ DNA to determine the presence of gene variants that regulate how much alpha-synuclein protein is made. They also studied the association of these gene variants with patients’ survival free of severe motor and cognitive disabilities.

Patients who had reduced expression of alpha-synuclein had a 23% greater risk of becoming wheelchair-dependent or developing dementia.

If replicated, the findings, presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology will have profound implications regarding therapies under development for Parkinson’s disease.

hands_ParkinsonsInterestingly, this is not the first time alpha-synuclein has been challenged. SRxA’s Word on Health has discovered literature from 2008 showing that there are people with Parkinson’s Disease that have no accumulation of alpha-synuclein, and people who have accumulated alph-synuclein who do not have Parkinson’s Disease. In autopsy studies, 30%-55% of elderly subjects with widespread alpha-synuclein pathology were found to have no definite neuropsychiatric symptoms; yet when large amounts of alpha-synuclein had fewer patients were found to have Parkinson’s Disease.  These authors concluded that much of the Parkinson’s Disease research was being done without having any scientific or factual basis.

Looks like  people should have listened!

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Nutty about Brain Health?

Last year, we posted news of an epigenetic diet rich in broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, fava beans and kale that claimed to reduce cancer and degenerative brain changes.  Despite its alleged health benefits, the diet has found few followers among your average American carnivore.

And although it’s unlikely that we will ever see nutritionists advocating a hamburger, beer and potato chip diet, maybe more people will be tempted to reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease and memory problems by following the dietary advice of a new study published in the May 2, 2012, online issue of Neurology®.

This research showed shows that eating foods such as fish, chicken, salad dressing and nuts, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, is associated with lower blood levels of beta-amyloid, a protein related to Alzheimer’s.

The study followed 1,219 people 65 and older, who were free of dementia. Participants, provided information about their diet for an average of 1.2 years before their blood was tested for beta-amyloid.

The researchers looked specifically at 10 nutrients, including saturated fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, mono-unsaturated fatty acid, vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin B12, folate and vitamin D.

They found that the more omega-3 fatty acids a person ate, the lower their blood beta-amyloid levels. Consuming one gram of omega-3 per day – the equivalent of approximately half a fillet of salmon per week, lowered blood beta-amyloid levels by 20-30%.

“It was a continuous association.  More and more intake of omega-3s was associated with lower and lower levels of beta-amyloid in the blood.  There was no threshold effect,” author Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, from  Columbia University Medical Center

The association between omega-3 consumption and beta-amyloid was unaffected by whether or not a person took supplements – meaning if two people consumed the same amount of omega-3s, one through food and the other through supplements, the person who consumed more omega-3 rich foods typically had lower blood levels of beta-amyloid.

Other nutrients were not associated with changes in plasma beta-amyloid levels. And results stayed the same after adjusting for age, education, gender, ethnicity, amount of calories consumed and presence of the APOE gene, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

The beneficial impact of omega-3 on brain health would fall in line with past studies of the nutrient.  “Previous studies have suggested that omega-3s and other aspects of diet may be related to brain function,” Scarmeas said. “Here we demonstrate one possible mechanism could be through amyloid, the main biological mechanism that relates to Alzheimer’s disease.”

Scarmeas speculated that omega-3s may be able to reduce oxidative stress on the brain and the resulting vascular damage, or even have some kind of impact on beta-amyloid in the brain.

And although there is not enough data yet to suggest omega 3’s and beta-amyloid are directly related, I, for one, will be ordering the pecan crusted chicken salad for lunch today, dressing on the plate!

Milk can cut kids’ MS risk by 56%

Word on Health has just learned of a study that suggests drinking milk during pregnancy may help reduce a baby’s chances of developing multiple sclerosis (MS).  Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health will present preliminary results at the upcoming meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

The data we’ve seen so far look very interesting. More than 35,000 mothers were surveyed over a 16 year period. The risk of their daughters developing MS was 56% lower for mothers who drank four or more glasses of milk a day, compared to those that drank 3 or less glasses / month.

The results add further credibility to earlier studies that link MS with vitamin D deficiency.

While these findings are not going to change the lives of the 350,000 Americans currently estimated to have MS, they may, in the future, be able to prevent some of the 200 new cases diagnosed each week.

More importantly this study may be able to reduce the 2.5 billion dollars the US spends each year on MS care.

Got Milk?  Word on Health is stocking up!