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Inflammation, viruses and overactive immune function are now seriously being investigated as instigators of Alzheimer's disease. Ten percent of seniors over the age of 65 have Alzheimer's and 50 percent of those of over the age of 85 are afflicted. With the enormous group of Baby Boomers hitting the age at highest risk, the number affected with Alzheimer's is expected to increase to 5.5 million in the next several years and 14 million by 2050. Scientists are furiously looking for causes to the "ticking time bomb" in our brains. New research shows that an overactive immune system plays a powerful role in causing central nervous system inflammation and destruction of neurons (neurons transmit and receive signals in the brain).

Inflammation in the brain caused by the immune system is now thought to be a major contributor to Alzheimer's disease. Our brains contain a certain immune cell called a microglia cell, which acts like a macrophage (the big eater cells of the immune system of the body). These brain microglia cells release inflammatory immune factors including interleukin-1 and interleukin-6. Experimental animal studies and clinical trials in humans have shown that these inflammatory immune factors promote the destruction of neurons in Alzheimer's disease brains. In certain animal studies, when interleukin-1 and interleukin-6 were blocked, destruction of neurons was halted.

Let's take it to the next step. If inflammation of the brain is one of the factors that induces destruction of neurons in the brain of some-one with Alzheimer's, then anti-inflammatory agents that cross the blood/brain barrier could halt the release of these damaging immune factors and reduce our risk of developing Alzheimer's or halt the progression of the disease. Researchers at the University of British Columbia, Canada, along with others around the world, are researching the benefits of anti-inflammatory drugs as a preventative. Nutrients that inhibit the secretion of interleukin-1 and interleukin-6 have also been evaluated for their Alzheimer's protective effect.

Researchers at the University of California found the curry spice curcumin, in both low and high doses, reduced the inflammatory immune factors secreted by microglia cells, showing great promise for the prevention of Alzheimer's. A new study published in the June 26, 2002 Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that vitamins E, C, beta carotene and a general multivitamin with minerals may help protect people against Alzheimer's disease, postponing cognitive and memory decline. Vitamin E and vitamin C are powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients inhibiting interleukin-1 and interleukin-6, so it makes sense that they would protect our brains from injury or immune system assault.

Many nutrients blunt the action of interleukin-1 and interleukin-6. Although they have not been studied directly for their use in Alzheimer's disease, they should also be considered as excellent Alzheimer's prevention nutrients. These include vitamin D, Moducare™ plant sterols and sterolins, boswellia extracts and omega-3 fatty acids.

Do not wait another day to start your Alzheimer's protection program. Include these nutrients in your daily regimen. Don't forget to eat curry often.


  1. Basu, A., et al. "The type 1 interleukin-1 receptor is essential for efficient activation of microglia and the induction of multiple proinflammatory mediators in response to brain injury." Journal Neurosci (July 2002). Vol. 15:22(14) pp. 6071 82.
  2. Lim, G. P., Chu, T., et al. "The curry spice curcumin reduces oxidative damage and amyloid pathology in an Alzheimer transgenic mouse." Journal Neurosci (Nov. 2001). Vol. 1:21(21) pp. 8370-7.
  3. Eikelenboom, P., Hoogendijk, W. J., et al. "Immunological mechanisms and the spectrum of psychiatric syndromes in Alzheimer's disease." Journal Psychiatr Res (Sept/Oct 2002). Vol. 36(5): pp. 269-80.
  4. Lee, Y. B., Nagai, A., Kim, S. U. "Cytokines, chemokines and cytokine receptors in human microglia." Journal Neurosci Res (July 2002). Vol. 1:69(1) pp. 94-103.

Lorna Vanderhaeghe, MSC

A health journalist, Vanderhaeghe as been researching and writing on the subject of nutritional medicine for over 20 years. She is past editor in chief of Healthy Living Guide and Alive magazine. Lorna is the author of A Smart Woman's Guide to Hormones, A Smart Woman's Guide to Weight Loss, A Smart Woman's Guide to Heart Health, the A-Z Woman’s Guide to Vibrant Health and many more.