The field of neurological research features so many developments it’s difficult to keep track of them all. Here’s a roundup of some of the latest developments in three key areas of neurology: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and epilepsy. Note that this blog is intended as information only, not medical advice.
That’s the correlation at the heart of a new study published in the Jan. 13 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
SciTechDaily reports that researchers found “significant” amounts of aluminum content in brain tissue from donors with familial Alzheimer’s.
In addition, the study uncovered an “unequivocal association” between the location of aluminum and amyloid-beta protein, which leads to early onset of Alzheimer’s, said lead investigator Christopher Exley, PhD, Birchall Centre, Lennard-Jones Laboratories, Keele University, Staffordshire, UK.
Exley went on to make a bold statement: “Within the normal lifespan of humans, there would not be any Alzheimer’s disease if there were no aluminum in the brain tissue. No aluminum, no Alzheimer’s disease.”
Science has suggested the link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s for more than 40 years.
Simply put, it couldn’t hurt to reduce one’s exposure to aluminum, an element that features no known essential role in living systems, according to a June 2018 article from the National Institutes of Health.
The metal “is a recognized neurotoxin, which could cause neurodegeneration,” wrote the researchers, Elif Inan-Eroglu and Aylin Ayaz.
Dr. Marnie Whitley, naturopathic physician at Neurology Associates, agrees.
“Aluminum toxicity has been thought for some time to have an association with immune suppression, cognitive decline and dementia including Alzheimer’s,” she says. “As with most heavy metals, the level of exposure and the body’s ability (or rather lack of ability) to clear the metal are factors in health risks.”
There are some foods that may help clear aluminum but “the easiest factor to address is exposure,” Whitley says.
Because aluminum is one of the most abundant metals in the earth’s crust, avoiding it altogether is impossible, she adds. That means aluminum is naturally present in healthy foods such as spinach and that’s okay.
“Where we can best avoid exposure is in food additives, so look for additives containing sodium aluminum phosphate, sodium aluminum sulfate,” Whitley says. “Also look at cosmetics, deodorants, cookware, and pharmaceuticals for sources of exposure and avoid them if possible. For many of these products there are aluminum-free options. Don’t avoid your spinach because it has some aluminum – it has some protective nutrients as well.”
Aluminum is also prevalent in occupations including aluminum refining, publishing and printing, and the automotive sector.
Improving gut health could be key to slowing, or perhaps even reversing, Parkinson’s.
That’s according to a new study from researchers at the University of Edinburgh and University of Dundee, co-funded by Parkinson’s UK. Investigators identified good bacteria – Bacillus subtilis – that appears to prevent the buildup of a protein linked to Parkinson’s.
The scientists discovered that Bacillus subtilis in roundworms not only protected against the protein collecting but also cleared some already formed clumps.
Keep in mind these are just initial findings. They are promising but researchers need to do more work.
“The next steps are to confirm these results in mice, followed by fast-tracked clinical trials since the probiotic we tested is already commercially available,” said lead researcher, Dr. Maria Doitsidou, from the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.
Before rushing out for a probiotic, check in with your (or your loved one’s) neurologist.
Many patients with epilepsy struggle with memory as well.
Researchers at Cedars-Sinai have pinpointed why this happens, and say that understanding the process could help doctors improve treatment.
The new study found that abnormal electrical pulses from specific brain cells in patients who report memory problems are associated with a temporary disruption called transient cognitive impairment.
"The unpredictability of seizures and memory impairment is a major stressor in people who have epilepsy," said Chrystal Reed, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Neurology at Cedars-Sinai Reed, and first author of the study.