Alzheimer’s is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease: this means that it causes deterioration in the brain that progresses over time.
The damage caused by Alzheimer’s causes certain cognitive functions related to memory to decline; but also some that affect emotions or personality, thus affecting behavior.
Due to its characteristics, this disease is classified as a dementia, and although it is not the only one that exists, it is the one with the highest prevalence: among people who suffer from dementia, about 60% is from Alzheimer’s.
In general, it occurs in people over 65 years of age, but that does not mean that it is a characteristic of aging, in addition to that there are cases in which it occurs in younger adults.
Although we have more and more information about Alzheimer’s, there is still much to know about it, especially to find treatments that can cure it or at least stop its progress.
Studying a disease that affects the brain, while it is occurring, can be very difficult. It is possible to observe the effects it has on people’s behavior and cognitive performance.
But it is more difficult to know exactly what is happening in the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s, since it is not as easy as doing a biopsy, as it is with other diseases that occur in other parts of the body.
However, with the passage of time it has been possible to gather information about what happens in the brain, analyzing that of people who have already died from this condition.
Although there is no single definite cause for Alzheimer’s, they do have evidence that a common characteristic of people who suffer from it is that they have abnormal accumulations of the beta-amyloid protein.
This protein forms deposits around the gray matter of the brain, and although they can form normally with age, if there is a very large accumulation, it causes the neurons to have less available energy, which degenerates them.
For this reason, much of the research to understand the causes of Alzheimer’s and seek treatments is focused on the beta-amyloid protein.
A study recently published in the specialized journal Cell Reports, concludes that there is evidence that it would be possible to reverse the accumulation of these proteins by modifying our diet.
A group of researchers in biological sciences found that a modification in the diet could be beneficial to treat Alzheimer’s and for that they had the collaboration of worms.
Although it may not seem like it, worms are very good laboratory assistants, especially if it is of the species Caenorhabditis elegans.
The C. elegans They are used as biological models to study many diseases, as they have genetic and metabolic similarities with human beings.
For example, the nervous system of these worms is affected by accumulation of beta-amyloid protein: when this happens, they are completely paralyzed.
These biologists, from the University of Delaware, they found that if their diet included vitamin B12, they did not present that paralysis.
Of course, Alzheimer’s is much more than a paralysis and human beings are more complex than a worm, but without a doubt these results indicate that perhaps if we modify our diet we can reduce the risk of suffering from it.
The teacher Jessica Tanis, who led the study, points out that although in Alzheimer’s there are factors that we cannot control, such as age or heredity, there is something we can do: “If people could change their diet to affect the onset of the disease, that would be great.”