Top Anti-Inflammatory Foods
For anti-inflammatory agents, a few broad guidelines are in order. Although steroids like prednisone have the strongest anti-inflammatory properties, these are fairly toxic compounds that are quite tricky to use. In addition, the negative results in the recent Alzheimer's study have convinced me to exclude steroids from the Memory Program. Among the NSAIDs, the antioxidant and anticoagulant properties of aspirin give it a slight edge over the other available compounds. If you have risk factors for stroke or heart attack for example, a strong family history or a high cholesterol blood level an aspirin a day is a good idea. It may also protect against memory loss, given its antistroke and anti-inflammatory properties. Other NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Motrin) or indomethacin (Indocin) also irritate the stomach lining, though to a lesser extent than aspirin (enteric-coated or buffered aspirin helps but does not always solve the problem). The other NSAIDs do not share aspirin's anticoagulant...
Anti-inflammatory medications are of two types steroidal and nonsteroidal. It may seem odd that steroids, which in high concentrations can damage the hippocampus, can be therapeutic for patients with dementia. However, the fact that inflammation does occur in the brains of these patients suggests that steroids, which have extremely powerful anti-inflammatory properties, may indeed be effective treatments. Drs. Paul Aisen and Ken Davis at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York certainly think so, and they recently completed a placebo-controlled clinical trial using prednisone, a synthetic steroid, in Alzheimer's disease. However, the trial results were negative prednisone showed no advantage over placebo in these patients. The other approach is to use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) like acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), indomethacin (Indocin), or ibuprofen (Motrin). Acetaminophen (Tylenol) has weak anti-inflammatory properties compared to aspirin, even though it...
Within the brain, the immune system interacts closely with nerve cells in several regions and is triggered in a variety of ways. The complement pathway (a sequence of enzymes proteins) plays an important role in the immune response, and an overactive complement response can damage different areas of the brain. In patients with Alzheimer's disease, complement activation can trigger the formation of amyloid protein that collects in clumps to make up the pathologic amyloid plaques. Researchers are now studying anti-inflammatory agents that can block or inactivate complement in the treatment of not only Alzheimer's disease, but also mild to moderate memory loss during the aging process.
Aspirin's anticoagulant effects help protect against ministrokes, a common cause of memory loss during the aging process. If you have any risk factors for stroke, such as high cholesterol, smoking, or a positive family history of stroke, an aspirin daily (or even a baby aspirin daily) is a good idea. Its anti-inflammatory properties may also be useful in delaying the onset of Alzheimer's disease, and memory loss more generally. Use aspirin with caution if you're prone to stomach upset or irritation (or ulcer), and avoid it if you have bleeding tendencies or are taking anticoagulants.
Lucca, U., Tettamanti, M., Forloni, G., Spagnoli, A. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug use in Alzheimer's disease. Biological Psychiatry 36 854-856, 1994. McGeer, P. L., Schulzer, M., McGeer, E. G. Arthritis and anti-inflammatory agents as possible protective factors for Alzheimer's disease a review of 17 epidemiologic studies. Neurology 47 425-432, 1996.
Caring for and treating patients with Alzheimer's disease costs over 100 billion annually in the United States alone. The introduction of FDA-approved cholinesterase inhibitors for treatment, and their potential utility in treating memory loss due to the aging process, has given rise to new hope that we are on the way to meaningful therapies for this terrible illness. There are suggestions that vitamin E, ginkgo biloba, estrogens, and anti-inflammatory agents may slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease, but some of these agents may be even more useful in preventing memory loss due to the aging process. I will discuss these therapies in the next major section in this book.
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