In a recent study, scientists 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.
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.
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.
For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce the risk of dementia, and tea and coffee may help lower your risk of stroke, dementia.
The study was conducted by Ramon Velazquez et al and published in Aging Cell.
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