Exercise and Alzheimer’s

Another good reason to exercise and be generally active. Btw I think you are be off getting your Vit E either from foods or from supplements derived from foods.

The article below is by Jon Hamilton from NPR

Sen. Lugar runs in the Capital Challenge 5k race in 2008Courtesy Sen. LugarSen. Lugar has run in the Capital Challenge 5k race every year for 29 years. Above, he crosses the finish line in 2008 at the age of 76.

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April 29, 2010
People have been trying for years to keep their brains sharp by exercising, staying mentally active and watching their diets. But a panel convened by the National Institutes of Health warned the public Wednesday that it’s not clear any of these measures can prevent Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of mental decline in people.

Many scientists are still optimistic about prevention, partly because they are also considering research done on animals.

At about the time the panel was releasing its report, a 78-year-old senator was doing something he hopes is good for his brain.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) was competing in an annual charity race a few miles from Capitol Hill. He’s been a runner since grade school and says he thinks exercise helps him remember a lot of stuff, including “the names and places of thousands of people and events that I bring up frequently in the course of debate.

“It’s very helpful to have that kind of historical knowledge of my constituency, as well as of the world,” Lugar said.

The panel convened by the NIH wasn’t so sure that’s why people like Lugar remain sharp into their 70s and 80s. And they wanted to make sure the public wasn’t being misled about the benefits of this or any other strategy for preventing Alzheimer’s.

So the panel looked only at studies in humans and they found some studies of exercise in people have found a benefit while others haven’t.

Arthur Kramer, a neuroscientist from the University of Illinois wasn’t on the panel, though he was invited to speak to the group.

He says the panel is right to be cautious, but he says it also makes sense for researchers to talk about the potential of exercise.

“The benefits tend to be on the order of a 20 to 30 percent reduction in being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other such diseases,” Kramer said. “And again this isn’t universal but this is found in an increasing number of studies.”

Kramer says researchers also tend to consider studies that show what exercise does for animals.

“There are improvements in the chemistry of the brain in terms of the molecules that protect the brain, increases in the number of connections between neurons, which allows us to encode new learning and memory,” he said. “And even the birth of new neurons in one region of the brain that supports memory.”

Mental exercise is another strategy that seems like a good idea to many Alzheimer’s researchers. After all, it appears to increase connections in the brain and perhaps make the brain more resilient — in animals and perhaps in people.

But Neil Buckholtz from the National Institute on Aging says the panel would need much more than that to recommend a specific activity to the public.

“Doing crossword puzzles, Sudoku, those kinds of things — they’re interesting but the evidence is not available at this point that they actually have an effect,” Buckholtz said.

The panel seemed most skeptical about studies of drugs, diets and nutritional supplements.

Members found some evidence of benefit from omega-3 fatty acids like those in fish. But it found no convincing studies in people that anti-oxidants like Vitamin E could make a difference.

Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical School in Chicago, is less skeptical. She says there is good evidence that some anti-oxidants work in animals.

“There’s a very broad base of animal models showing that Vitamin E protects the brain from neuron loss, from DNA damage, from oxidative damage,” she said.

Panel members say they will consider changing their position on Vitamin E and other popular prevention strategies when researchers show they work in people.

via NPR by Jon Hamilton

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