Lab-based experiments on various types of antioxidants have been promising. However, studies involving people have provided limited support for claims that antioxidants may protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
Free radicals are produced by cells as a byproduct of energy production, and, consequently, are a result of normal functioning. They have both harmful and beneficial effects in cells. Free radicals modify the structure and function of substances in the body. To prevent disruption and damage, our bodies naturally make and acquire from food, molecules that react with free radicals and protect the cells against them. These are generally called antioxidants.
Because they react with oxygen, free radicals may reduce the oxygen supply to cells. It is these free radicals that cause oxidative damage.
Some research studies have suggested that this “oxidative stress” may play a role in the changes in the brain that cause Alzheimer’s disease. There is substantial evidence that oxidative damage to the brain is an early incidence in Alzheimer’s disease. Signs of oxidative stress are not only found in the brain, but also in the cerebral spinal fluid and urine of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
Increasing levels of antioxidants by increasing fresh fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with many long-term benefits. Evidence has shown that the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruit, vegetables and cereals and low in red meat and sugar, is highly recommended for increasing antioxidant intake.
Antioxidant rich foods include small dried red beans, wild blueberries, kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, blueberries, cranberries, cooked artichoke hearts, blackberries, dried prunes, raspberries, strawberries, Red Delicious apples, Gala apples, Granny Smith apples, pecans, sweet cherries, black plums and cooked russet potatoes.
According to an article by Osman Shabir for news-medical.net, even with promising research studies, the evidence of an effective antioxidant-based treatment for Alzheimer’s disease has mixed results.
Many studies have looked at the role of dietary supplements and herbal remedies in the treatment or prevention of Alzheimer’s with promising results. Dietary supplements with well-characterized antioxidants include vitamin A, carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, caffeine and curry spice curcumin.
Additionally, lifestyle factors such as calorie restriction and physical exercise have been shown to increase antioxidant levels.
Shabir also noted that melatonin, a hormone found naturally in the body, is another promising therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.
“Melatonin at physiological levels performs other functions such as inducing sleep, but under certain conditions, it can behave as a free radical scavenger,” he wrote.
Controlled clinical trials are needed to validate this particular research.