More and more seniors are finding themselves in need of Alzheimer's care, as the disease continues to plague the nation with no cure in sight. The Alzheimer's Association reports that one in eight seniors in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease, and it remains the sixth leading cause of death in the country. Additionally, it's estimated that this year more than $200 billion will be spend on home health care and other treatment services because of the disease.
While it seems as though a cure is far off, researchers have been working to delay some of the symptoms that could come with Alzheimer's. Researchers out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently discovered a combination of nutrients could help patients with the beginning stages of the disease retain some of their memory.
The combination of compounds choline, uridine and DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, was found to create new connections between brain cells known as synapses. These connections decrease when a person has Alzheimer's disease, and they can lead to memory loss and other cognitive issues.
"You want to improve the numbers of synapses, not by slowing their degradation - though of course you’d love to do that too - but rather by increasing the formation of the synapses," said Richard Wurtman, the Cecil H. Green Distinguished Professor Emeritus at MIT, who invented the nutrient mixture.
The researchers used test subjects who were in the early stages of Alzheimer's and found that the mixture was able to prolong memory. The study used an electroencephalography (EEG) to measure the patients' brain activity patterns and how they changed throughout the course of treatment. People who were in the early stages of Alzheimer's showed more activity of synapse creation. They noted that the same was not true for people in the later stages of the disease, as Wurtman noted they may have already lost too many neurons to make new connections.
While another study is currently underway, the medical world is hopeful that this mixture could bring about new treatments.
"Memory loss is the central characteristic of Alzheimer's, so something that improves memory would be of great interest," said Jeffrey Cummings, director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, who was not involved with the study.
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