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THE SCIENCE

Role of inflammation in brain injury and disease:

Considerable evidence gained over the past decade supports the conclusion that neuroinflammation is associated with dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and other vascular disease pathology.

What is dementia and what are the causes:

Dementia is a neurodegenerative disease. Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with a variety of disease states. Dementia affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, behavior and movement. Dementia can be caused by multiple factors including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular diseases, genetic diseases, toxicities and nutritional deficiencies among many others. It is estimated that as many as 5.1 million Americans suffer from a specific type of dementia called Alzheimer’s disease. About a half million Americans younger than age 65 have some form of dementia. Dementia in this population is referred to as young onset or early onset. Current research from the National Institute on Aging indicates that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years beyond age 65.

Huperzine A and Curcumin, the two star ingredients of THE BRAIN VITAMIN:

Huperzine A, a dietary supplement derived from the Chinese club moss Huperzia serrata, has recently received interest as a potential treatment for dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. Huperzine A acts as a cholinesterase inhibitor, a group of medications that work by improving the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Huperzine A also works as an NMDA receptor antagonist, thereby protecting the brain against glutamate induced damage. Initial studies suggest that Huperzine A may improve memory and protect nerve cells, which could slow the cognitive decline associated with different forms of dementia.

Huperzine A and Presciption Medications: The Alzheimer’s Association recommends that you not take Huperzine A if you are currently taking a prescribed cholinesterase inhibitor, such as donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon) or galantamine (Razadyne). Huperzine A is that powerful! Taking Huperzine A in combination with prescription cholinesterase inhibitors may cause side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and muscle cramps. Huperzine A is thought to have less side effects than prescription pharmaceuticals. Consult with your doctor before starting any dietary supplement.

Huperzine A’s effectiveness has been attributed to its ability to strongly inhibit acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine in the synaptic cleft. Acetylcholine is involved in memory and learning. By inhibiting the enzyme that breaks it down, more acetylcholine becomes available to stimulate neurons. Alzheimer’s disease is a condition where there is a relative shortage of acetylcholine. Multiple studies conducted in both the United States and abroad show that Huperzine A is many times more effective and selective than tacrine (a cholinesterase-inhibiting pharmaceutical drug) in inhibiting cholinesterase (Cheng 1996). Scientists at Zhejiang Medical University, in Hangzhou, China administered 200 mcg of Huperzine A to fifty patients with Alzheimer’s disease for a period of eight weeks and compared the results to a group who received placebo pills (Xu 1995). Fifty-eight percent (58%) of the patients treated with Huperzine A had improvements in memory, cognition, and behavioral functions with no reported adverse side effects. The researchers say, “Huperzine A is a promising drug for symptomatic treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Curcumin may also play a role in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Curcumin exhibits antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and lipophilic actions and may improve the cognitive functions in patients suffering from dementia. A growing body of evidence indicates that oxidative stress, free radicals, beta-amyloid and other abnormal inflammatory reactions contribute to the key events in dementia pathology. Due to its various anti-inflammatory effects, such as decreasing beta-amyloid plaques, delaying degradation of neurons, decreasing microglia formation, the overall memory and brain health in patients with dementia may be improved via curcumin supplementation.

Curcuma longa (turmeric) has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for inflammatory conditions. Turmeric constituents include the three curcuminoids: curcumin (diferuloylmethane; the primary constituent and the one responsible for its vibrant yellow color), demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin, as well as volatile oils (tumerone, atlantone, and zingiberone), sugars, proteins, and resins. Numerous pharmacological activities including antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, have been attributed to this anti-inflammatory compound. Based on early cell culture and animal research, initial clinical trials indicate curcumin may have potential as a therapeutic agent in diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, arthritis, and chronic anterior uveitis, as well as certain types of cancer and dementia. Ongoing clinical trials may provide an even deeper understanding of the mechanisms and therapeutic potential of curcumin.

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