This daily nutrient may play a critical role in treating Alzheimer’s disease

Choline is an important nutrient that is naturally present in some foods and can be used as a dietary supplement.

All plant and animal cells require choline to maintain their structural integrity. It has long been recognized that choline is particularly important for brain function.

The human body uses choline to produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter responsible for functioning memory, muscle control and mood.

Choline also is used to build cell membranes and plays a vital role in regulating gene expression.

In a recent study from Arizona State University and elsewhere, researchers found that a lifelong dietary regimen of choline holds the potential to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The study is published in Aging Cell. The lead author is Ramon Velazquez.

The team looked into whether this nutrient could alleviate the effects of Alzheimer’s.

Previously, the team had found transgenerational benefits of Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in mice whose mothers were supplemented with choline.

The recent work expands this line of research by exploring the effects of choline administered in adulthood rather than in fetal mice.

The team focused on female mice bred to develop Alzheimer’s-like symptoms. Given the higher prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in human females, the study sought to establish the findings in female mice.

The team found that when these mice are given high choline in their diet throughout life, they exhibit improvements in spatial memory, compared with those receiving a normal choline regimen.

A recent study in China found the benefits of lifelong choline supplementation in male mice with Alzheimer’s-like symptoms. The results nicely replicate findings by this group in females.

Intriguingly, the beneficial effects of lifelong choline supplementation reduce the activation of microglia. Microglia are specialized cells that rid the brain of deleterious debris.

Although they naturally occur to keep the brain healthy, if they are overactivated, brain inflammation and neuronal death, common symptoms of Alzheimer’s, will occur.

According to the team, choline acts to protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease in at least two ways.

First, choline blocks the production of amyloid-beta plaques. Amyloid-beta plaques are the hallmark pathology observed in Alzheimer’s disease.

Secondly, choline supplementation reduces the activation of microglia. Over-activation of microglia causes brain inflammation and can eventually lead to neuronal death, thereby compromising cognitive function.

The team says choline supplementation reduces the activation of microglia, offering further protection from the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease.

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