The definition of a nutraceutical is a food product having some sort of health benefit, combining the terms nutrition and pharmaceutical. Many foods are eaten for health benefit, for example someone who is at risk of scurvy will eat greater amounts of tropical fruits with higher levels of Vitamin C to combat this risk. Nutraceuticals have been expanded to include isolated nutrients, dietary supplements, and herbal products. And there is a growing market for these products, in the US alone the nutraceutical market is expected to surpass $250 Billion by 2018.
How does this play into neurological disease?
Well, our lab has studied different supplements which have strong antioxidant potential, and may help alleviate some of the inflammation and neurological symptoms of diseases such as Alzheimer's. Some of these supplements include Melatonin and Caffeine.
Both coffee and tea account for two of the highest consumed beverages in the world, and both beverages have a considerable amount of caffeine within them. In relation to AD, it has been found that people who drink 3-5 cups of coffee per day during their midlife were found to have a decreased risk to developing dementia and AD in their later life. The purified caffeine itself has been found to lower plasma Abeta levels within several hours after ingestion.
Our publications related to coffee, caffeine, and AD have shown that when moderate doses (equivalent to 500mg of caffeine per day or about 5 cups of coffee per day) given to AD-model mice, protected these mice against AD. The results show that there was some memory restoration after only 1-2 months of treatment, and reduced plasma and brain levels of Abeta.
Caffeine and coffee as therapeutics against Alzheimer's disease. Arendash GW and Cao C. J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;20 Suppl 1:S117-26. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2010-091249.
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the pineal gland of the brain, and can be bought pretty cheaply over the counter at any vitamin section in a supermarket or drug store. The pineal gland begins to calcify or harden with age, and melatonin levels begin to decrease correspondingly. Melatonin is responsible for setting the body's internal clock, also known as its circadian rhythm.
With normal circadian rhythm, melatonin levels continually increase throughout the day and reaches peak levels at about 2-3 am in the middle of the night and drop to low levels again by 6-7 am the following morning.
However, in elderly this cycle can be dampened and even shifted due to the calcification of the pineal gland. This may contribute to bouts of being awake in the middle of the night and feeling tired during the day. This also can contribute to "sundown syndrome" in some dementia and Alzheimer's patients, which is an increase in confusion and agitation in these patients happening right around the time of sunset.
Previous studies have shown that taking supplemental levels of melatonin, in addition to bright light therapy for more severe cases, can help to decrease the symptoms experienced during bouts of sundown syndrome. These patients taking melatonin also found improvement in total sleep time, sleep efficiency, and wake time. Several recent studies with patients using melatonin specifically for dementia demonstrated that melatonin reduces sundowning behavior, nocturnal activity, decreases sleep latency, and improves quality of sleep.
Examining these results, our lab wanted to study the benefit melatonin may have for those AD patients not experiencing specifically sundowning behavior. In our early studies, we found that melatonin, in combination with caffeine, enacts an anti-Abeta effect in cell culture, and we are currently studying this effect in disease mouse models.
Coffee and caffeine potentiate the antiamyloidogenic activity of melatonin via inhibition of Aβ oligomerization and modulation of the Tau-mediated pathway in N2a/APP cells. Zhang L-F et al. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2015; 9: 241–272.
Recommended Patient Treatment
Based on our research,
- We recommend patients try to drink coffee or tea, 3-5 cups per day in the morning up until the early afternoon.
- Followed up by taking melatonin, 3, 6, or 10 mg a day (depending on what you feel you can handle), in the early evening.
As always, check with your physician if you are able to follow the recommended regimen. Moderate exercise is always recommended to help with symptoms. If you are unable to receive or pay for medical treatment and/or the available Alzheimer's drugs or are just looking for some type of alternative treatment, this may be a cheap and available alternative to help with your symptoms.
See our testimonial helping those in the USF community in the news: