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Melatonin, exercise show potential as Alzheimer's treatments

Melatonin, exercise show potential as Alzheimer's treatments

Tuesday, October 2, 2012. The June, 2012 issue of the journal Neurobiology of Aging published a report by researchers in Spain that describes a benefit for exercise and the hormone melatonin in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease.

Scientists from the Barcelona Biomedical Research Institute, the University of Granada and the Autonomous University of Barcelona studied the effects of the therapies in mice with three mutations that result in the characteristics of Alzheimer's disease. The animals, which were in the initial phases of the disease, were divided to receive 10 milligrams melatonin per kilogram body weight, a daily exercise regimen consisting of unrestricted use of a running wheel, or both treatments. Alzheimer's mice that received neither therapy and a group of mice that did not have the mutations served as controls.

Engaging in exercise reduced behavioral and psychological symptoms, including anxiety, emotionality and a lack of exploration. Both melatonin and exercise resulted in decreases in cognitive impairment, brain oxidative stress, amyloid beta and mitochondrial DNA reductions. Combined treatment with exercise and melatonin resulted in additional mitochondrial benefit. Melatonin alone reduced hyperphosphorylated tau protein (found in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients). "After six months, the state of the mice undergoing treatment was closer to that of the mice with no mutations than to their own initial pathological state," reported lead researcher Coral Sanfeliu of the Barcelona Biomedical Research Institute. "From this we can say that the disease has significantly regressed."

While the recommendation of melatonin for humans with Alzheimer's disease may be premature at this stage, coauthor Darío Acuña-Castroviejo of the University of Granada noted that "Other studies which use melatonin as medication show its high level of effectiveness."

"Even though many more studies and clinical tests are still required to assess the doses of melatonin which will be effective for a wide range of diseases, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of melatonin mean that its use is highly recommended for diseases which feature oxidative stress and inflammation," he added.

"For years we have known that the combination of different antiaging therapies such as physical exercise, a Mediterranean diet, and not smoking adds years to one's life," Dr Sanfeliu stated. "Now it seems that melatonin, the sleep hormone, also has important anti-aging effects".

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Antioxidants could help protect against dementia

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The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease recently published the findings of German researchers of a correlation between higher levels of beta-carotene and vitamin C and a reduction in the risk of dementia.

"Oxidative stress is believed to play a central role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease, a neurodegenerative disease," Professor Gabriele Nagel of the University of Ulm and her associates write. "Antioxidants may prevent the onset Alzheimer's disease as high dietary intake of vitamin C and E were reported to be associated with lower risk of the disease. The objective of this study was to evaluate the serum levels of antioxidants in persons with mild dementia to test whether it is associated with lower levels of antioxidants."

The study included participants in the cross-sectional IMCA ActiFE (Activity and Function in the Elderly in Ulm) study of men and women aged 65 to 90 residing in Ulm and its surrounding area. The researchers compared 74 participants with mild dementia with 158 gender matched, healthy control subjects. Blood samples were evaluated for beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, lycopene and coenzyme Q10.

An association between higher blood levels of beta-carotene and vitamin C were associated with a lower risk of dementia. Participants whose beta-carotene levels were among the top one-third of participants had a risk of dementia that was 87 percent lower than that experienced by those whose levels were among the lowest third. For vitamin C, the risk experienced by subjects with the highest levels was 71 percent less than participants whose levels were lowest.

"In order to possibly influence the onset and development of Alzheimer's disease, we need to be aware of potential risk factors", stated Dr Nagel. "Longitudinal studies with more participants are necessary to confirm the result that vitamin C and beta-carotene might prevent the onset and development of Alzheimer's disease."

 

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