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Reducing AD Risk Factors in the General Population

Reducing AD Risk Factors in the General Population
In order to minimize the societal strain caused by a high rate of Alzheimer�s disease in an aging population, public health initiatives should focus their efforts on campaigns that can reach the greatest number of people. To this extent, educating the public about dietary choices that have proven efficacy in lowering the risk of AD is the best current option.

Recent studies have shown that supplementation with DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid), B-vitamins, and magnesium are associated with a reduced risk for developing AD. Compared to other AD therapies, increasing dietary intake of these compounds is inexpensive, uncomplicated, and safe, and as such popular opinion about adopting these dietary changes is likely to be positive, especially if efforts are taken to educate and raise awareness about the link between dietary choices and AD. As Anderson, et al (2011) found, people who were told that AD can be prevented were more likely to engage in behaviors they believed would reduce the risk of AD.

�Age-related diseases [such as Alzheimer�s] frequently cause oxidative damage and inflammation that should be preventable,� (Cole, et al, 2005 p. 135). Although �in AD, sensitive biomarkers are unknown,� (p. 133) there exists some evidence for the use of certain anti-oxidants in reducing the risk of AD. Modest increases in consumption of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA are associated with a 60% risk reduction for AD (p. 135). Curcumin, a polyphenolic compound derived from turmeric, is another anti-oxidant that has been suggested for the treatment of AD, but recent trials have not been promising. Brondino, et al have found that �to date there is insufficient evidence to suggest the use of curcumin in dementia patients� (2014).

The true benefit of anti-oxidants might however be in preventing the development of Alzheimer�s before it appears, rather than reversing the symptoms of dementia once they begin. Seshadri, et al (2002) show that �an increased plasma homocysteine level is a strong, independent risk factor for the development of dementia and Alzheimer�s disease� (p. 476). In their 8 yearlong study, the authors found that subjects with a plasma homocysteine level greater than 14 mol per liter were nearly twice more likely to develop AD than those with lower homocysteine levels (ibid). While, as Doraiswamy notes, �it is unclear at present how elevated homocysteine levels translate into risk of Alzheimer�s disease,� dietary supplementation with B vitamins is effective in lowering homocysteine plasma levels, and thus may be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of AD symptoms.

While not an antioxidant itself, magnesium is another nutrient which appears to play an important role in oxidative stress and the development of neurodegenerative diseases. Kolisek, et al (2015) show that an Mg2+deficiency �is correlated with increased production of ROS (reactive oxygen species) in cells,� and that �disturbed magnesium homoeostasis and increased levels of OS (oxidative stress) are associated with poor clinical outcomes in patients suffering from neurodegenerative . . . diseases� (p. 1143). Similarly, Li, et al find that elevated levels of magnesium in the brains of mice reversed the cognitive deficits seen in the the APPswe/PS1dE9 transgenic mouse, which the authors used as a model for AD due to the specie�s �high brain amyloid deposits and severe deficits in spatial memory at 6-7 months of age� (2014, p. 2). Although magnesium�s efficacy on AD in human clinical trials has still yet to be seen, that it functions as an antagonist at the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor is seemingly further evidence for it�s potential, since it shares this method of action with the AD drug Memantine.

Conclusion
DHA, B-vitamins, and magnesium all show some evidence for either preventing or minimizing the onset of AD and dementia symptoms. All three of these supplements are widely available, inexpensive, and safe for human consumption, making them prime candidates for a public health initiative promoting their consumption, since compared to other possible interventions, it would be financially viable to target the entire population of a country. Additionally, the benefits of using them might extend beyond preventing AD. Since the typical Western diet is deficient in both magnesium (Seelig, 1964) and DHA (Minati, et al, 2009), widespread supplementation of these nutrients could lead to a variety of positive health outcomes nationwide.

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