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Alzheimer’s is the fifth leading cause of death in Americans aged 65 and older. In fact, while deaths from stroke and heart disease decreased in the years from 2000 to 2019, Alzheimer’s deaths increased by 145 percent.
It’s a devastating diagnosis that is often called “the long goodbye” as we watch our loved one lose the capacity to think for themselves and to remember who we are.
And while there is no cure, there are lifestyle factors that may lower our risks. One of the simplest may be a once vilified source of an essential nutrient that could very well hold the key to solving the Alzheimer’s “puzzle.”
An important brain-supporting nutrient
Choline, plentiful in eggs, is an essential nutrient that is crucial to the health of your nervous system.
The brain and nervous system use it to regulate memory, mood, and muscle control, and it forms the membranes that surround your cells.
A 2011 study found that higher choline intake was strongly associated with better cognitive function in seniors.
A sufficient supply in the brain will preserve neurons, brain size and neural networks related to memory, protecting against age-related cognitive decline.
Choline’s ability to safeguard memory is primarily because it’s a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. A deficiency in acetylcholine will cause difficulty with word recall when speaking, as well as memory problems and learning difficulties.
Study shows that choline may offset Alzheimer’s
An Arizona State University study examined mice from three to twelve months old (early to late adulthood — roughly equivalent to 20-60 years of age for humans).
All exhibited symptoms of Alzheimer’s, either naturally or by induced methods.
Mice who were fed a choline-deficient diet showed liver damage and heart enlargement. They also had an increase in β-amyloid protein and tau tangles typical of Alzheimer’s disease and performed poorly on tests of motor skills — especially those in whom Alzheimer’s had been induced.
Translating these findings to humans, this implies that people who are predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease or who already have the disease should be sure to avoid a choline deficiency.
Choline sources (and drugs that interfere with it)
Choline is produced by the liver in small amounts. But without dietary sources, a deficiency will always exist.
Fortunately, there are plenty of good sources of choline. But eggs mays be the easiest: just two can get you to 54 percent of the recommended daily intake.
Of course, another alternative is to take choline supplements. But some research shows natural choline from egg yolk phospholipids is better absorbed.
No matter how you do it, though, you’d be wise to be wary of medication that can hinder choline’s brain benefits…
Remember, as I mentioned above, choline is the precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which plays an important role in memory function.
Anticholinergic drugs are a commonly prescribed group of medications, also called antispasmodics. They are popularly used to treat urinary incontinence by stopping involuntary nerve impulses — like the urgent need to find the nearest restroom. But to do this they block acetylcholine.
The majority of these drugs are prescribed to women — so is it any wonder that more than two-thirds of the people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are women?
Guard your choline to guard your brain.
Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!
The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyperintensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort — American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
What is acetylcholine — Cleveland Clinic