Monday, 30 January 2017

Vitamin A Deficiency May Cause Alzheimer's - Before Birth

Alzheimer's Disease can be considered one of the worst things that could happen to a person. Robbing a person of not only their physical health, but also their cognitive function and everything that makes them who they are, the disease is incurable by what most people consider to be medicine. It affects more than 5 million Americans, is the sixth leading cause of death in the country, not to mention millions more worldwide. To make things even worse, one important factor - vitamin A status - may be at its most critical before birth, before any of us have any control over what we eat.

Vitamin A deficiency.
This study examined the link between vitamin A and Alzheimer's Disease in both animals and humans, as mice have much shorter lifespans but are still biologically similar. For the animal part of the study, some mice were deprived of vitamin A before birth, and others after. Some of the prenatally-deficient mice were given vitamin A supplements after birth. It was found that a mild deficiency of vitamin A increased the amyloid-beta protein that characterizes Alzheimer's Disease, and these mice performed much worse on learning and memory tests. Even having a healthy diet as infants did not reverse this damage, but supplementation partially reversed it. As for the human part, 330 seniors in China were investigated for cognitive function and vitamin A status. Around 75% of those with mild or significant deficiency had cognitive impairment, compared with 47% of those with healthy vitamin A levels.

The results of this study may help to explain why dementia rates have fallen by 25% from 2000 to 2012, from 11.6% to 8.8%. Falling poverty rates would have boosted the general nutritional and vitamin A status of each following generation. Even the West had higher rates of more extreme levels of poverty when the current elderly population were born. For example, my grandfather had to leave school at the age of eight to work - something you only see in Third World countries now, and this was 1920s/30s Australia. Where there are still high poverty rates, clinical vitamin A deficiency is still prevalent, but Alzheimer's is not the only issue. 250 million preschool children are vitamin A deficient; 250,000-500,000 children are blinded every year by the deficiency, often before dying; and it is a public health problem in around half of the world's countries. Fortunately, vitamin A supplementation can cut child mortality by a quarter, and cut measles mortality in half. Growing fruits and vegetables in home gardens has also improved the nutritional status of many. Eliminating poverty and the resulting nutrient deficiencies is creating many short and long-term benefits around the world. But while clinical vitamin A deficiency is rare in wealthy countries, you may have suboptimal levels, so consuming beta-carotene rich foods (such as carrots and pumpkin) or vitamin A-rich foods (ie beef liver or cod liver oil) may prevent cognitive decline later.

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