Three decades ago good epidemiological studies clearly pointed to the link between diets too rich in saturated fats and coronary heart disease. These were professional studies; the results were not secret. Yet only in the past few years has the medical community begun to recommend the dietary practices necessary to lower the high incidence of heart disease among Americans. And so it has been with matters of the brain. Dietary links to Alzheimer’s for example, have appeared in print since the 1930's. Now seventy years later we are taking some notice of the self-destructive practices we inflict on our brains.
The history of medicine points out that about half of the accepted truths of one generation are discarded in the next generation. If you are concerned about your health, then you must keep as informed as possible about all new developments. If you have begun being aware of the correlation among our nutritional intake, our environment, and their effects on our bodies, then read on.
Researchers in Japan, concentrating their studies on specific parts of Japan - Guam and Kii Peninsula, in particular - found very high incidences of the neurological diseases of Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Parkinson’s correlating with soil and water highly dense with aluminum; and at the same time the local soils, drinking water, and food grown and consumed low in calcium and magnesium. The physical and mental symptoms and the clinical findings of large quantities of aluminum deposited in a certain area of the brain were similar in all three diseases.
In American studies, published results state that “Aluminum has been implicated in the following human disorders: Pre-senile and senile dementia of the Alzheimer’s type; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis; and Parkinsonism dementia complex; and some forms of epilepsy.” (H.M. Wisniewski, et al, Department of Pathological Neurobiology and Pathological Biochemistry of the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities.) However, while quite toxic, aluminum overload is only part of the problem.
Destruction of the brain is a progressive mental deterioration in which the brain cells die or are changed causing a loss in mental function and turning its victims into vacant shells. The disease of senile dementia begins later in life and its progress is slow; Alzheimer’s begins at an earlier age and is one of the leading causes of death in this country. More than half of the residents in nursing homes are Alzheimer’s sufferers, running health care costs into the billions of dollars.
Senile dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are definitely not a natural part of aging; they are pathological processes. There are multiple causes: psychiatric depression; some forms of Parkinson’s disease; multi-infarct dementia - the result of blockages of the cerebral blood vessels caused by multiple small strokes; tumors; hemorrhages; injuries; infections; traumas; nutritional, chemical, and metabolic causes; and heredity. Actually the causes of some dementias are still unknown.
In dementia there are three major changes within the brains: double strands of neuro- fibrillary tangles, senile plaques, and granulovascular degeneration. The tangles are abnormal fibers mainly in the cerebral cortex (the area associated with short-term memory and emotions). Aging increases the number of tangle in all people, but a much higher density of tangles appears in senile brains. Also, aluminum bound with silicates is especially concentrated in these tangles. Senile plaques are concentrations of decayed neural material, again in increased numbers and in the same areas of a diseased brain. Abnormal changes such as chemical changes are also common: importantly a deficiency of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter and a chemical necessary for communication between nerves; and second, a reduction in the blood flow to the brain. The brain itself also changes shape.
Theories are many. Some researchers say Alzheimer’s disease and other types of senile dementia are caused by a slow virus, “slow” because the symptoms appear after a prolonged incubation period. Other theories are bacteria, toxic metal overload such as aluminum and lead, genetic tendency, or an immune system malfunction. There is a newer theory since the Mad Cow Disease and tainted meat problem, that of prions. None of these theories have been proven and perhaps not one alone can explain the full picture. But it has been suggested that inadequate intake over years, of various nutrients essential to health can predispose the body to the development of senility and Alzheimer’s
Normally, the brain is protected from toxic substances by the blood- brain barrier. However, because excess toxic metals such as aluminum are concentrated in brain tissue in Alzheimer’s patients, it’s believed that in these patients there exists a defect in this barrier system. Somehow the barrier has been damaged. Kidney failure, a stroke, a severe brain concussion are common types of events that can damage the barrier and should the person have high concentrations of aluminum in his blood, the metal will cross the barrier and enter the nucleus of cells gaining access to the DNA structures. What to do?
We need a risk-reduction program. On part of the program would have to reduce the amount of aluminum in the body and the other to incorporate the nutrients the body and brain needs. . It’s not easy to eliminate aluminum from your system totally. It is the most common metal found in the earth’s surface, its clays and soils; but through some measures we can greatly decrease the excess quantity of the metal. The first area to look at are aluminum-containing foods and food additives. Eating foods made with self-rising flours, pancake batters, frozen doughs, and cake mixes contain high levels of aluminum. Every serving may contain between five and 15 milligrams of aluminum. One slice of processed American cheese contains up to 50 milligrams. The word alums is a food additive containing aluminum salts used in pickling; a dill pickle of medium size that has been soaked in 0.1 % alum solution may contain between five to ten milligrams of the metal. A teaspoon of baking powder may contain up to 70 milligrams of aluminum and a cake prepared with one to three teaspoons of baking powder may contain five to 15 milligrams in each slice. Food additives containing aluminum are used in nondairy creamers, salt, and dry, powdered food.
The next category to look at are nonprescription drugs. The two chief classes of aluminum containing drugs are antacids and internal analgesics such as buffered aspirin. Women who are taking antacids as a source of calcium may delivering a daily dose of 840 to 5,000 milligrams of aluminum to their body. Buffered aspirin delivers 126 to 728 milligrams of the metal a dose and anti-ulcerative drugs up to 828 milligrams a dose each day.
We can make significant inroads in eliminating aluminum in our kitchens. Get rid of aluminum foil. Discarding aluminum pots and pans which cut significant quantities of aluminum to overall intake. By using an aluminum pot to cook tomatoes for example, the resultant absorption can increase from nine to 17 %. Both highly acidic and highly alkaline foods absorb aluminum. Beer and soft drinks stored in aluminum cans absorb small quantities of the metal; the longer the storage, the higher the amount absorbed. The solution is to choose drinks in bottles. It is only when a person has impaired kidney functions, some other abnormal physiology or when he is super-saturated with aluminum from his environment that some of this metal is deposited where it does not belong bringing about neurotoxicity.
The last place to tackle is ourselves. This has to be a two-fold approach: chelating toxins from the body and improving the nutrition to the brain. What is chelation? Medically, the term means an agent with the ability to grab another compound and remove it from the body. Chelating can remove aluminum from brain tissue as well as help restore some elasticity of cerebral arteries. We can also use two proven internal mechanisms for cleansing out toxins: exercise in conjunction with a fiber-rich diet. There are chelation agents on the market that we can take which will remove metal overloads slowly and inexpensively. While there is some controversy as to just how chelation achieves results, there is no doubt that it does. Dr. Elmer Cranton wrote the “book” on chelation therapy and it is an enlightening read for everyone middle age and over; it is “Bypassing Bypass”.
Fortunately, there are foods that naturally chelate undesirable metals. These foods contain the amino acids cysteine and methionine, both very rich in sulfur. When a sulfur compound is combined with hydrogen, new sulfhydryl groups are formed which are very effective in removing poisons and toxins. Foods such as onions, garlic, red pepper, chives, and egg yolks contain large amounts of sulfur; asparagus, legumes such as pea beans, limas, pintos, soybeans and others remove aluminum. Sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and English walnuts all contain methionine and there are vitamins, minerals and amino acids specifically used for their natural chelating properties.
Whether the problem is Alzheimer’s, senile dementia, ALS, or Parkinson’s, a lifetime of inadequate calcium and magnesium intake can lead to aluminum being deposited in brain cells. A shortage of calcium in the body will allow increased aluminum absorption from foods which would be available for uptake into the brain. Researchers in ALS also believe that a lack of calcium and magnesium encourages a deposit of other metal ions in the brain; these other metals are bromine, mercury, and silicon.
Many hypotheses exist to explain deteriorating brain changes, none have really been proven and none of them alone can explain the full range of the biological, anatomical, and clinical picture as described by Alzheimer’s and senile dementia. There is one condition believed to be an underlying issue in both: malnutrition. This condition permits aluminum to deposit in the brain and prevents the utilization of critical nutrients the brain requires. Perhaps both mal- absorption of nutrients and inadequate intake of critical nutrients may equally contribute to these diseases.
The nutrients often deficient in Alzheimer’s patients are: albumin or simple proteins; iron; folic acid; amino acids such as Tryptophane; vitamin B12; and niacin. The vitamins that appear to be critical in preventing and treating dementia are A, B-1, B-6, B-12, folic acid, choline, and C. Minerals are also important; these are calcium, magnesium and zinc. There is also a need for essential fatty acids such as omega-6 ( linoleic acid) and omega-3; and amino acids such as tyrosine and tryptophane
Some of the best sources for these nutrients are deep colored yellow and green colored food for the vitamin A (the carotenes); nuts, legumes, and whole grains for vitamin B; eggs, wheat germ, soybeans for choline and lecithin; fish oils, fruits, nuts, and vegetables for vitamin E; fruit and vegetables for vitamin C (the flavonoids); and green, leafy vegetables, wheat bran and wheat germ and fish for minerals. Of course, supplementing with food based vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants would help greatly. This should be the skeleton of a nutrient therapy. If you add a multi-vitamin/mineral formula do buy a food based type, not a discount or super-market multi-vitamin. The cheap brands often fail to deliver adequate quantities of nutrients, rely on poor quality ingredients, and often contain fillers, binders, and other non-nutritive additives. Above all, eating the foods that will give you the specific nutrients your brain needs goes a long way in reducing your risks for losing your mind.
For supplies and further information consult Marie Cargill.