Micronutrients Can Benefit the Aging Brain
With life expectancy increasing all over the world, there is a significant increase in age-related health issues. Complications related to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia are some of the most common causes of death in adults over 65. September is World Alzheimer’s Month, an annual campaign promoted by Alzheimer’s Disease International.
Dementia is a collective name for brain syndromes that affect memory, thinking, behavior, and emotions. While there are different causes of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 70% of people suffering from dementia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 6.5 million Americans over 65 have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and about 360,000 people have the young-onset form of the disease even before the age of 65. At present, there is no cure for dementia. However, incorporating dietary supplements such as multivitamins including vitamin C and other antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids may also help in delaying the aging process of the brain and other organ systems.
The harmful effects of oxidative stress on aging are well known. Oxidative stress reflects the cellular damage caused by free radicals. The body is exposed to free radicals through normal internal metabolic processes and external sources such as consuming unhealthy food, smoking, alcohol, X-rays, and other pollutants. A healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts and seeds, and lifestyle changes that include physical and mental activity, and alcohol and smoking cessation are known to delay the symptoms of dementia and many other chronic health issues. Micronutrients with antioxidative properties can effectively neutralize the free radicals and improve health. Vitamins C, D, E and the B group, as well as calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, iron, and folic acid protect the cells from free radical damage.
The brain has a high rate of oxygen consumption and is thus prone to oxidative damage. In addition, the brain arteries are exposed to higher mechanical stress due to their proximity to the heart which can lead to damage to the arterial walls and atherosclerosis. Unlike most other cells in the body, the brain has an extra layer of protection called the blood-brain barrier which protects it from toxins and other pathogens. However, this also makes it difficult for many nutrients to reach the brain. There are a few micronutrients that can effectively cross and repair the blood-brain barrier including vitamins C, B12, B5, folic acid, D, omega-3 fatty acids (EPA/DHA), and certain minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, N-acetyl-cysteine, and glutathione. Among these, vitamin C is more critical for brain health. Vitamin C concentration in the brain is found to be 10 times more than in the rest of the body.
Researchers at the Dr. Rath Research Institute published a study* that proved that long-term and high doses of vitamin C intake are critical in maintaining brain health and preventing oxidative damage. Additionally, our results also show that higher vitamin C intake reduced plaque formation and blockages in the arteries of the brain offering further protection.
Although there is no medication to cure dementia, easily available micronutrients with high doses of vitamin C are well proven to slow down the aging process of the brain and all other systems in the body.
*Ref: Shi L. et al, Current Aging Science, 2021