If you’ve ever witnessed a loved one grappling with the effects of dementia, then you know firsthand what a devastating condition it is. Seeing someone lose their capacity to remember, reason, and eventually to function independently is not only tragic, it’s frightening. This is especially true knowing there is no cure, or even treatment, for dementia. That’s why a recent study out of Japan is so exciting: It showed that taking amino acid supplements could prevent people from developing dementia in the first place.
Past studies have long established a link between a high-protein diet and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and in this new study, published in the October issue of Science Advances, researchers took those findings a step further.
“In older individuals, low protein diets are linked to poor maintenance of brain function,” explained Dr. Makoto Higuchi, a scientist from the National Institutes for Quantum Sciences and Technology and one of the study’s lead authors. “Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. So, we wanted to understand whether supplementation with essential amino acids can protect the brains of older people from dementia.”
To do this, researchers studied a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease (a major cause of dementia), looking at how a low protein diet affected the brain. They found that mice who were given this diet had accelerated brain degeneration and signs of poor neural connectivity. However, after supplementing the mice with a specific combination of seven amino acids (called Amino LP7), the effects were reversed.
A Problem That’s Getting Worse
Dementia, which currently affects about 55 million people worldwide (according to the World Health Organization, or WHO), is on the rise. By 2030 — less than 10 years from now — they estimate that 78 million people will suffer from dementia, and in 2050, that number could reach 139 million if current trends continue.
Although many of us associate dementia with Alzheimer’s disease, that is not the only cause of dementia. Approximately 60 to 70 percent of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s; other cases can result from a number of conditions, including strokes, brain injury, and other diseases.
A Solution on the Horizon
Amino LP7 appeared to reduce brain inflammation, which is associated with dementia. It also inhibited the death of brain cells and preserved neuron connectivity, both of which are important for improving brain function.
While Amino LP7 is not yet available to the public, this is a significant finding in the fight against dementia. “Our study is the first to report that specific amino acids can hinder the development of dementia,” said Dr. Hideaki Sato and Dr. Yuhei Takado, two other lead contributors to the study, told SciTechDaily.
“Although our study was performed in mice, it brings hope that amino acid intake could also modify the development of dementia in humans, including Alzheimer’s disease,” they said. “These results suggest that essential amino acids can help maintain balance in the brain and prevent brain deterioration.”
A patent is pending on the Amino LP7 supplement. Meanwhile, getting plenty of healthy protein in your diet is important, and taking an amino acid supplement, like 21st Century Daily Amino Acid (Buy from iHerb, $7), could be a good idea, too. Just be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new dietary supplements.
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