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Nutrition, dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Nutrition, Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease

Long-term nutrition may be an important factor that precipitates the onset of brain failure

Neurons are long-lived brain cells, but they are not replaced by cell division as are other cells in the body. Nutrients, however, are vital to cell well-being. The carbohydrates, eight amino acids, two fatty acids, about fifteen minerals and just as many vitamins are used by the cells and require continual replacement from food.

If the diet lacks any one of the necessary nutrients, body stores will be depleted and biochemistry altered. Deficiency will follow. Although the brain usually experiences a deficiency last, there are many instances in which the nervous system is affected severely -- sometimes irreversibly.

When the vitamin B12 is lacking, motor tracts in the spinal cord begin to degenerate. Paralysis of the legs and anemia are typical of the consequences.

The brain may also be affected first when the vitamin niacin is in short supply. Pellagra, a disease with severe dementia symptoms, was considered incurable until the niacin link was discovered.

Alcoholics are always deficient in thiamine, the vitamin known as B1. Nonalcoholics who do not get enough of the vitamin in their diets show the identical malnutrition symptoms that plague alcoholics.

Data are available for most essential nutrients, but deficiencies can occur because some vitamins and trace minerals have not been assayed for their importance. Even nutrients which meet the Recommended Daily Allowance (R.D.A.) may be insufficient for some individuals because there is a wide variation of nutritional requirements for people with metabolic and clinical disorders. Human senility, of which the best known form is Alzheimer's disease, has been viewed as a possible result of malnutrition.

Nutritional deficiencies can induce ultrastructural changes in the brain. Cells deficient in B6, or in copper, have been observed to show distortion in brain structure. Deficiencies of the vitamin also induce neuronal deterioration.
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Title Annotation:nutrient deficiency may precipitate brain failure
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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