Researchers found that a lifelong dietary regimen of choline holds the potential to prevent Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Choline is a 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 the study, the team looked into whether this nutrient could alleviate the effects of Alzheimer’s.
Earlier this year, the team found transgenerational benefits of AD-like symptoms in mice whose mothers were supplemented with choline.
The latest work expands this line of research by exploring the effects of choline administered in adulthood rather than in fetal mice.
The study focuses on female mice bred to develop AD-like symptoms.
Given the higher prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in human females, the study sought to establish the findings in female mice.
Results showed 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.
Notably, a recent study in China found the benefits of lifelong choline supplementation in male mice with AD-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 disease, will occur.
The observed reductions in disease-associated microglia, which are present in various neurodegenerative diseases, offer exciting new avenues of research and suggest ways of treating a broad range of disorders, including traumatic brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.
According to the team, choline acts to protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease in at least two ways, both of which are explored in the new study.
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.
Choline supplementation reduces the activation of microglia, offering further protection from the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease.
In the scientific community, it is well understood that Alzheimer’s disease causes harm to the brain long before clinical symptoms are made evident.
And once these symptoms are identified, it is too late—the disease has become irreversible.
In addition to causing disorientation and memory loss, the disease causes loss of motor control in those who are afflicted.
The team hopes their finding can help develop a new method to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease. Choline is considered a very safe alternative, compared with many drugs.
Clinical trials will be necessary to confirm whether choline can be used as a viable treatment in humans.
The lead author of the study is Ramon Velazquez. The study was published in Aging Cell.
If you care about Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies about the cause of memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease, and scientists find a new method to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about a common food that could reduce vascular disease in the brain, and results showing medical cannabis could reduce some brain disorders.