NMU 164 – Flavonoids and Melatonin: Impressive Nutrients in the Prevention of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No 164 (May 20, 2020)
with Dr. James Meschino
Topic: Flavonoids and Melatonin: Impressive Nutrients in the Prevention of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (May 2020) and
the American Journal of Neurodegenerative Disease (Nov 2012)
In May of 2020 a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, looking at the link between diet and risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, showed that after following 2800 individuals over the age of 50 for twenty consecutive years, individuals with low intake of foods and drinks containing flavonoids, such as berries, apples, and tea, were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, compared with individuals who consumed more of those items. According to one researcher, a cup of tea a day or some berries two or three times a week would be adequate (and protective). Another study researcher explained that even starting at age 50 it’s not too late to make positive dietary changes that can ward off the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in the years ahead. As he states, “the take-home message is, when you are approaching 50 or just beyond, you should start thinking about a healthier diet if you haven’t already. “
So, how might flavonoids in these foods and beverages reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease? Animal studies show that various flavonoids, including the catechins found in black tea, and which are especially high in green tea, inhibit the production of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain, which is a hallmark feature of Alzheimer’s disease. Many flavonoids also have powerful antioxidant properties, which may also slow brain aging. In addition to flavonoids, research continues to emerge showing the protective effects of melatonin on the brain as we age. We know that melatonin hormone secretion declines quite significantly by the time we are 40-50 years of age. Melatonin is not only important for sleep quality, but it acts as a brain antioxidant, and like flavonoids, it has been shown in experimental studies to inhibit the synthesis of beta-amyloid plaque – a consistent feature of the Alzheimer’s disease brain. Melatonin levels are known to be especially low in Alzheimer’s patients. In recent years studies have shown that melatonin supplementation can reverse mild cognitive impairment in a significant number of patients and prevent its progression to full-blown Alzheimer’s disease. Several human intervention studies have now shown this important outcome.
There are a number of nutrition and lifestyle strategies associated with a lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, such as not smoking, getting regular exercise, staying at or near your ideal body weight and avoiding the development of type 2 diabetes, avoiding head injuries and concussions, keeping your mind active through continued learning, staying engaged socially and so on. However, the evidence to support the regular ingestion of flavonoid-rich foods, such as apples, pears, berries (blueberries and strawberries) and green tea (or black tea) has become very impressive, as has the consideration of taking 1-5 mg of melatonin one hour before bedtime each night after the age 40-50. Always check with your physician before introducing a new supplement to your wellness program, but melatonin has demonstrated a very good safety profile, which is quite reassuring as you seek approval for its daily inclusion in a wellness program.
I’ve included the scientific references for this information in the text below.
1. Paul F Jacques, Rhoda Au, Jeffrey B Blumberg, Gail T Rogers, Esra Shishtar. Long-term dietary flavonoid intake and risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in the Framingham Offspring Cohort. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2020.
2. Flavonoids in the Diet: Could they help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Society Against Dementia. Lead Investigator Dr. Robert Williams (University of Bath):
3. Cardinali DP, Vigo DE, Olivar N et al. Therapeutic application of melatonin in mild cognitive impairment. Am J Neurodegen Dis. 2012; 1(3): 280-291
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