The Mediterranean diet, which features plenty of vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains, has long been lauded for its heart health benefits. But now a new study shows that it could also improve brain function in elderly people, even when only eaten for a year. According to the research published in the BMJ, following a Mediterranean diet for just 12 months can inhibit production of inflammatory chemicals in elderly individuals that can lead to loss of cognitive function, as well as prevent the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and atherosclerosis. For the study, 612 elderly people from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom has their gut microbiome analysed. Then, 323 of them were put on a special diet, based on Mediterranean principles, for one year, while the rest were asked to eat as they normally would. After 12 months, all of the study participants had their gut microbiome re-analysed. Those who had followed the Mediterranean diet saw beneficial changes to the microbiome in their digestive system. The rate at which bacterial diversity was lost slowed and the production of potentially harmful inflammatory markers was reduced. Furthermore, there was also a growth of beneficial bacteria linked to improved memory and brain function. So-called “keystone” species, critical for a stable “gut ecosystem”, were also boosted, helping to slow signs of frailty, such as walking speed and hand grip strength. “Our findings support the feasibility of changing the habitual diet to modulate the gut microbiota which in turn has the potential to promote healthier aging,” the study authors said.
Genetics, lifestyle and environmental factors are all thought to play a role in causing Alzheimer’s disease. And it’s now looking increasingly likely that we can add certain strains of the herpes virus to that list too. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health, the results of which were recently published in the journal Neuron, found that people with Alzheimer’s disease had higher levels of herpes strains 6A and 7 – two common forms of the virus, but not the ones responsible for genital herpes or cold sores. Alzheimer’s – also commonly referred to as dementia – causes people to lose their memory and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States today. The authors of the study hope their research could one day lead to exciting new Alzheimer’s treatments and help better determine just who is at risk of developing the disease. "The hypothesis that viruses play a part in brain disease is not new, but this is the first study to provide strong evidence based on unbiased approaches and large data sets that lends support to this line of inquiry," National Institute of Aging Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D., said in a statement. The findings of the study reignite an old theory that suggests viruses could impact brain functions long term.
A pioneering breakthrough in the treatment of Huntington’s disease has seen the defect that causes it corrected for the first time. According to the research team from University College London, there is a real possibility that the deadly neurodegenerative disease could be stopped going forward. The team of scientists injected an experimental drug into spinal fluid which reduced the levels of toxic proteins in the brain. Experts are hailing the groundbreaking procedure as the potentially the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative diseases for 50 years. Huntington’s disease is a particularly devastating illness that is passed down through families. Some sufferers have likened it to having Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and motor neurone disease all at the same time. A genetic error causes the protein huntingtin – which is vital for brain development – to instead kill brain cells. The unstoppable degradation of brain cells in Huntington's patients leaves them in permanent decline and affects their movement, behaviour, memory and ability to think clearly. Huntington’s blights families and generally hits people while they are in their prime – 30s and 40s. Patients tend to die around 10-20 years after symptoms first appear. The revolutionary drug therapy works by effectively silencing the effects of the mutant huntingtin gene and preventing the harmful protein from ever being built. Professor Sarah Tabrizi, the lead researcher and director of University College London’s Huntington’s Disease Centre, said: “For the first time a drug has lowered the level of the toxic disease-causing protein in the nervous system, and the drug was safe and well-tolerated. This is probably the most significant moment in the history of Huntington’s since the gene [was isolated].”
The slogan for British yeast extract Marmite is 'You either love it or hate it'. And while many people in America may not have even heard of it, a new study will come as good news for lovers of the popular food stuff. A by-product of beer brewing, Marmite is a sticky, almost black coloured food paste with a very distinctive, powerful, salty flavour. People in the UK usually eat it in sandwiches or on toast. According to a study conducted by researchers from the University of York in the UK, Marmite could help boost brain function. The study found that participants who ate one teaspoon of Marmite every day displayed a reduced response to visual stimuli - an indicator of increased levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Simply put, GABA "clams" the human brain and helps restore the optimal balance of neuronal activity required for healthy brain functioning. Low GABA levels have previously been linked with anxiety, depression, epilepsy, and autism. That's why researchers have been looking at ways to increase GABA levels in the brain. Speaking about the findings of the research, Senior author Dr. Daniel Baker, of the Department of Psychology at York, said: "Since we've found a connection between diet and specific brain processes involving GABA, this research paves the way for further studies looking into how diet could be used as a potential route to understanding this neurotransmitter." The study serves as a great reminder of how diet has the ability to alter brain processes.