While it's great that people are living longer these days, thanks in large part to great advances in medical science, aging brings its own challenges. One of the most feared is Alzheimer's disease and similar neuro-degenerative disorders, often classified under the rubric of dementia. Such ailments steal the victim's memory, personality, and function. The holy grail, of course, is understanding these diseases well enough to prevent or at least treat them effectively. And, with help of a mouse model, some progress is being made.
Dr. J.A. Lemon from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada and colleagues from several institutions, used the TGM (transgenic growth hormone) mouse model to assess the efficacy of a dietary supplement in ameliorating neuro-degenerative symptoms. Their report was published in the journal Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis.
This mouse model of accelerated aging exhibits some characteristics shared by some aging humans — chronic oxidative stress, shorter lifespan, impaired mitochondrial dysfunction, muscle wasting, elevated inflammatory processes and insulin resistance. In addition, the authors state, these mice lose more than 50 percent of the cells in the midbrain region, which is comparable to what is seen with severe Alzheimer's disease. They also exhibit a large degree of cognitive impairment.
In earlier work, some of these authors had described a complex dietary supplement (31 different ingredients) that included seven vitamins, several minerals, as well as other ingredients such as garlic, gingko biloba, ginger, and cod liver oil. And they found that both normal mice and TGM mice had enhanced longevity when fed this supplement daily from two months of age onwards. In addition, the treated TGM mice enjoyed better health — fewer cataracts, and reduced arthritis.
In the later study, using their supplement on TGM mice again, the authors focused on the neuro-degenerative aspects of aging. They found that the supplement-treated mice had improved cognitive functions as well as better sensory and motor function.
The authors suggest that this supplement holds promise for the treatment of human neuro-degeneration/dementia/Alzheimer's disease. If independent replication supports their conclusions, it possibly will be time to consider some human trials of their dietary supplement.
Although we often have looked askance at claims about dietary supplements and their purported effects on human health, in this case there seems to be some reasonable pre-clinical work that supports the efficacy of this treatment — it deserves further consideration.