A Combination of Nutritional Supplements Prevents Brain Cell Loss

One of the problems with studying natural medicine is that the whole scientific research model is set up to examine single drugs: give half of the test subjects the drug, give half a dummy pill (placebo), and compare the results to see if it’s effective. That’s fine for pharmaceuticals, with their emphasis on reductionism — targeting very specific receptors or mechanisms within cells to bring about a change in the system (usually just reducing symptoms). Naturopathic medicine has always had a more holistic focus, however: employing a variety of therapies together to support the innate healing capacity of the human organism. This includes using herbs and nutrients in combination. When single nutrients have been studied like drugs, we have seen failures to produce benefit, such as vitamin C for immune health, or vitamin E or fish oil for cardiovascular disease prevention.

In recent years, a group of Canadian researchers at McMaster University has bucked this trend by studying a combination of herbs and nutrients for brain health. This combination includes common ingredients such as B vitamins, ginkgo biloba, flaxseed oil, and green tea. The latest research on this combo in a mouse study found that when it was fed to mice with massive brain cell (neuron) loss (equivalent to advance Alzheimer’s disease in humans), it prevented, and even reversed the death of neurons.

Read that again — it reversed the brain cell loss associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and others.

No pharmaceutical drug has ever been shown to have this effect. A major part of the problem with treating neurodegenerative diseases is something called the blood-brain barrier (BBB): a cellular “wall” that acts like the velvet rope at the nightclub of our brain, preventing most large molecules from crossing from the bloodstream into the brain. Combinations of smaller molecules and specific fats found in the natural supplement may be able to cross the BBB. They’re on the celebrity A-list for the club.

velvetrope

There is one major caveat to keep in mind with this study: effects found in mice don’t always translate to the same benefits in humans. However, given the potential upside with very low risk, this is a worthwhile strategy to try if there is existing brain disease, or high risk of conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

Here is the complete list of ingredients in the McMaster group’s supplement:

Table

Components of the dietary supplement and associated cellular targets

Component Target Component Target
Vitamin B1 Insulin sensitivity, anti-inflammatory Flax seed oil Omega fatty acids for membrane support
Vitamin B3 Insulin sensitivity, anti-inflammatory Folic acid Antioxidant, maintains glutathione levels, endothelial support
Vitamin B6 Insulin sensitivity, anti-inflammatory, scavenges Formula Garlic Antioxidant in lipid membrane, scavenges Formula, H2O2
Vitamin B12 Insulin sensitivity, anti-inflammatory Ginger Antioxidant in cytosol, scavenges OH, Formula, ONOO
Vitamin C Antioxidant in cytosol, scavenges Formula, H2O2 Ginkgo biloba Antioxidant in cytosol, scavenges NO
Vitamin D Antioxidant in lipid membrane Ginseng Antioxidant in cytosol and nucleus, scavenges OH, Formula, ONOO
Vitamin E Antioxidant in lipid membrane, scavenges Formula, H2O2 Green tea extract Antioxidant in cytosol, scavenges H2O2, OH
Acetyl L-carnitine Mitochondrial support, antioxidant in mitochondria, insulin sensitivity L-glutathione Enzymatic antioxidant support, antioxidant in cytosol
Alpha lipoic acid Mitochondrial support, antioxidant in mitochondria, insulin sensitivity Magnesium Insulin sensitivity, cellular support
ASA Anti-inflammatory, scavenges NO Melatonin Antioxidant in cytosol and nucleus, scavenges OH, H2O2, O, NO, ONOO
Beta carotene Antioxidant in lipid membrane, scavenges Formula, H2O2 N-acetyl cysteine Mitochondrial support, antioxidant in mitochondria
Bioflavonoids Antioxidant in cytosol and nucleus, scavenge OH, Formula, metal chelator Potassium Insulin sensitivity, cellular support
Chromium Insulin sensitivity, scavenges H2O2 Rutin Antioxidant in lipid membrane, scavenge OH, Formula, metal chelator
Cod liver oil Omega fatty acids for membrane support Selenium Scavenges H2O2, enzymatic antioxidant support, insulin sensitivity
CoEnzyme Q10 Mitochondrial support, antioxidant in mitochondria Zinc (chelated) Neural support (zinc + antioxidants), insulin sensitivity
Dehydroepiandrosterone Antioxidant, endocrine support

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