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Exercise Breaks Down Plaque Responsible For Alzheimer’s disease: Study shows

James Meschino DC, MS, ROHP
There is good evidence from human studies that a high fat diet increases risk for Alzheimer’s disease, and there is absolute proof that a high fat diet increases the development of Alzheimer’s brain damage in rodent studies. One of the ways that a high fat diet increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease is by stimulating production of the beta-amyloid plaque, which is a hallmark feature of the disease.

Beta-amyloid plaque is a protein that forms between brain cells from fragments of a protein found on brain cell surface receptors. The accumulation of beta-amyloid plaque damages brain cells in various ways, including increasing free radical damage. Researchers have been looking for ways to inhibit the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaque in the human brain, which would be a giant step forward in the ability to prevent the disease. So far, no drugs are able to do this.

The Right Supplements Are Important
There is evidences to show that certain supplements can prevent synthesis of beta-amyloid plaque, such as the omega-3 fat DHA as well as melatonin. Recently Vitamin D has been shown to help break down beta-amyloid plaque, and thus, all of these supplements may be key factors in helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease as we age.

Exercise Shows Remarkable Promise
A 2012 study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry(M. Maesako/2012)has shown that regular exercise was able to break downand eliminate the beta-amyloid plaque formed in the brains of mice, after feeding them a high fat diet. In other words, the amyloid plaque formed in the brains of mice as a result of feeding them a high fat diet, was reversed by providing them with an exercise regiment after the plaque had already formed. This is a remarkable finding suggesting that some of the damage in Alzheimer’s disease may be reversible (1).

There is already evidence in humans to show that providing exercise to patients with memory loss problems improves their cognitive function (2). The study by M. Maesako(2012) may help to explain this result. If, indeed, exercise can help breakdown the beta-amyloid plaque in the human brain, as it does in mice, then we are really on to something.

In the meantime, two important strategies to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease entail following a diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol, transfats, and deep fried food, and exercising. Not only might these factors reduce the build up of beta-amyloid plaque in your brain, but they will help to keep your body fat, blood sugar and insulin levels lower, which are also linked to lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.


  1. Masato Maesako, KengoUemura, Masakazu Kubota, Akira Kuzuya, Kazuki Sasaki, Ayae Kinoshita, et al.  “Exercise is more effective than diet control in preventing high fat diet-induced [beta]-amyloid deposition and memory deficit in amyloid precursor protein transgenic mice.”  The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 287, 23024-23033, June 29, 2012
  2. Lautenschlager N et al. Effect of Physical Activity on Cognitive Function in Older Adults at Risk for Alzheimer Disease. JAMA. 2008;300(9):1027-1037.
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