Alzheimer’s Risk Factors

McKnight’s reported on a new study linking the lack of certain antioxidants with increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Having high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin have been linked to better cognitive functioning and reduced risk for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

People with Alzheimer’s disease have half the levels of certain antioxidants compared to people without the disease, according to a new study. The research, which was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, finds that the levels of lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene and vitamin E in those with Alzheimer’s disease are half the amount compared to people who don’t have it.

C. Kathleen Dorey, PhD, a professor at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, said:

“These results are consistent with large population studies that found risk for Alzheimer’s disease was significantly lower in those who ate diets rich in carotenoids, or had high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in their blood, or accumulated in their retina as macular pigment.” 

Eating carotenoid-rich foods can help maintain brain health. Kale and spinach are full of lutein, and corn and orange peppers have zeaxanthin.

Other research has found that carotenoids may protect the brain from damage that leads to Alzheimer’s disease, but there hasn’t been evidence that brain carotenoids correlated with the disease until the recent report.

People with Alzheimer’s disease have much lower levels of lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene and tocopherols (vitamin D). The amount of lycopene, zeaxanthin and retinol in diseased brains was half those found in people of the same age who didn’t have the disease.

“Recent advances in new therapies for Alzheimer’s disease show exciting promise as an effective way to slow disease progression,” Dorey said. “I’d be thrilled if our data motivated people to keep their brains in optimum condition with a colorful diet with abundant carotenoids and regular exercise. Available studies suggest this may also reduce risk for dementia.”