How can I prevent neurological disorders

Psychiatry, Psychosomatics & Psychotherapy


"Brain-healthy" diet: how eating can protect against dementia

Certain nutrients have the potential to trigger self-cleaning processes in brain cells, which can protect against neurological diseases to a certain extent.

Aging researchers have identified food ingredients that stimulate self-cleaning processes in the brain cells and could protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. "Previous data suggest that so-called polyamines, especially spermidine, have a positive effect on brain function and intellectual abilities," reports Professor Agnes Flöel from the Neurological University Clinic in Greifswald. A study at the Charité in Berlin under the direction of Professor Flöel is currently investigating the influence of the active ingredient from wheat germ on the ability to learn and memory.

With the Berlin “SmartAge” study, the researchers are investigating the effects of a twelve-month dose of natural spermidine from wheat germ on learning and memory as well as on the structure of the brain. Older, still healthy people, whose memory has deteriorated according to their own assessment, took part in the study. Study participants are still being sought (see below). "We know from other studies that people with a subjectively perceived deterioration in memory who are worried about dementia actually have an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease," explains Professor Flöel, Director of the University Clinic for Neurology in Greifswald.

Spermidine from wheat germ reduces cell scrap

Neuroscientists currently attribute great potential for preventing mental degradation to spermidine. Spermidine is an endogenous product of cell metabolism and plays an important role in maintaining cell processes. External spermidine intake through food extends the lifespan of so-called model organisms such as yeast, worms and fruit flies and stops the age-related loss of memory in fruit flies - an effect that researchers attribute to the increase in so-called autophagy processes. With this self-cleaning process, the cell digests and destroys its scrap, for example pathogenic protein deposits. The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology was awarded for research into the mechanisms of autophagy. These protein deposits are the basis of almost all neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. A stimulation of this self-cleaning process could thus prevent these diseases.

Active ingredient from wheat germ

Spermidine in food appears to be good for the human brain too. "In our own small study, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research like the larger study that is currently underway, we examined the effect of natural spermidine, which was obtained from wheat germ and packaged in capsules, on learning and memory", explains Professor Flöel. "We were able to show that memory performance tends to improve after just three months of intake, with the capsules being very well tolerated."

Scientists consider spermidine to be one of the so-called calorie-reducing mimetics. “Calorie-reducing mimetics are substances that mimic the effects of fasting. The body produces them when you lose weight, but you can also take them in with food, ”explains Flöel. A number of mimetics have already been investigated worldwide: for example resveratrol, which can be obtained from grapes and therefore, among other things. can be found in red wine, or the so-called green tea extract, known as epigallocatechin gallate. “We were able to demonstrate positive effects on memory performance for resveratrol, while other groups found effects on blood flow to the brain,” says Professor Flöel.

Eat healthy and fast occasionally

So is the super pill for the brain coming soon? "Dietary supplements can never replace a balanced diet," emphasizes the professor. Basically, it is cheap to eat a lot of fruit, vegetables and unsaturated fatty acids and to save on sugar. “How much you eat also plays a role,” adds Flöel. "In studies, calorie restriction, especially the stimulus of fasting, led to better memory performance."
To prevent dementia, the S3 guideline of the German Society for Neurology (DGN) recommends keeping an eye on diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity and medically counteracting these risk factors at an early stage. In addition, an active social life, physical activity, and an active and healthy lifestyle appear to reduce the risk of disease.

Patients wanted
For the “SmartAge” study, which is currently being carried out at the Charité in Berlin under the direction of Professor Agnes Flöel, we are looking for additional study participants between the ages of 60 and 90 who, according to their own assessment, suffer from memory impairment and are concerned about this do. Interested parties are welcome to contact us by email at [email protected] or by calling (0) 30 450660395.

Source and references:
German Society for Neurology (DGN) on idw