Alzheimer’s Prevention Part 3 – Nutritional Status
This is the third in my Alzheimer’s prevention series. We now know there is no pill we can pop to make Alzheimer’s go away, so prevention is the key. And according to experts this is possible.
You can read the the first two in this series here and here. Now we begin a review of various life style factors that, in combination, contribute to the deterioration of brain cells and Alzheimer’s. Number one on that list is nutritional status, the very foundation of your health.
Nutrients are the stuff that most of us don’t know anything about and pretty much ignore. Your body is an extraordinary machine (putting computers to shame) that builds, rebuilds, repairs itself using internally generated energy and protects itself from damage. Don’t we wish our house or our car could do that!
The majority of the resources required for that work are internally created but your body does need a little help. That help comes in form of 27 vitamins and minerals, 10 amino acids (from protein), and 2 fatty acids (from fat) found in whole food. These are considered essential. Just a reminder that It’s All About the Food.
What does essential mean? Essential means required, not optional, nutrients that you must get from your food.
Protein and fats are largely construction and energy generation material. Vitamins and minerals, on the other hand, are the sparks that activate energy generation and construction and contribute to protection. They are all required in combination, not individually. There may be a pile of lumber on a lot with a plan to build a house but a house never appears until there are nails, tools, and effort to put the pieces together.
Needless to say, this is extraordinarily complex and life is too short for most of us to invest in understanding it perfectly, any more than we want know how to repair our refrigerators. But I want to detail (sort of) one example in the brain to make this clear.
How Nutrients are Involved in the Brain
GABA is an element made in the cells of the nervous system to help you avoid anxiety, face fear, and make decisions in a crisis. There are other elements like serotonin made in the brain that also contribute to this mental balance but those are other examples. So what are the nutrients required for the brain to make GABA?
For this information we turn to Chris Masterjohn, PHD, author of Testing Nutritional Status, The Ultimate Cheat Sheet. The making of GABA is multi-step which Dr. Masterjohn outlines in a short video on “Chris Masterjohn Lite.”
For our purposes I’m only going to list the nutrients required for the the creation of GABA. Watch Dr. Masterjohn’s video for more detail. The initial step requires some glucose, vitamins b1, b2, b3, b5, b6 and lipoic acid. In later steps magnesium, iron, copper, sulfur, biotin, and (again) all of the b vitamins are used. I should point out that for all this to work properly you also need to have good thyroid and insulin status. The nutrients required for thyroid and insulin status are another matter that we will get to in a later post.
Note that every one of those nutrients used in the making of GABA is also used in multiple places in your body, not just in your brain and not just in the creation of GABA. The making and using of every single thing in your body is a multi-step process requiring these and other nutrients. Absent these nutrients things go wrong and unfortunate chronic conditions eventually result. Note – it’s all of them together, not just one.
So what if you get some level of these nutrients but not enough? For this answer we turn to Dr. Bruce Aimes, and his triage theory. That theory means that the body rations nutrients in times of shortage, first allocating available nutrients to assure that you hang around long enough to replace yourself. After that your body could care less. Note that Alzheimer’s shows up after reproductive years so you can see why inadequate nutrition might impact brain cell operation and manifest in dementia as we age.
Here you may watch an interview with Dr.Aimes, hosted by Dr. Rhonda Patrick (another of the experts I follow regularly). Fair warning, it’s complicated.
Part 4 is Next
Obviously, at least to me and many experts, it does matter what you eat. Why? Because your nutrition status is in the food; it is the foundation of your health. The challenge is knowing how to get and keep your nutrition status where it should be. Part 4 helps you address that challenge.
Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. She is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry), and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors.