Supplements Touting Brain Benefits May Contain Unauthorized Ingredient

Lisa Rapaport wrote . . . . . . . . .

Many supplements marketed for brain health may contain piracetam, an ingredient not proven effective for preventing or easing dementia or cognitive impairment and not approved for sale in the U.S., researchers say.

In an analysis of five products purchased online, researchers found that four contained piracetam, sometimes in dangerously high amounts. The fifth, which was labeled and sold as piracetam, contained no detectable amount of the drug.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned last February that so-called cognitive enhancement supplements may be ineffective, unsafe and could prevent patients from getting the correct diagnosis and treatment.

“Any products making unproven drug claims could mislead consumers to believe that such therapies exist and keep them from accessing therapies that are known to help support the symptoms of the disease, or worse as some fraudulent treatments can cause serious or even fatal injuries,” then-FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

While the FDA didn’t single out piracetam, it’s one of the more common and worrisome ingredients in unapproved cognitive enhancement supplements, researchers note in JAMA Internal Medicine.

For the study, Dr. Pieter Cohen of Somerville Hospital Primary Care in Massachusetts and colleagues searched online for supplements with piracetam in the description or ingredient list, then ordered samples to test in a lab and see how much of the ingredient they contained.

They tested a total of 10 samples from four manufacturers. The amount of piracetam contained in the recommended servings ranged from 831 mg to 1,542 mg. In the four products that contained the ingredient, the amount of piracetam ranged from 85% to 188% of the amount claimed on the label.

Following the manufacturers’ recommendations, consumers could be exposed to quantities ranging from 831 mg to 11,283 mg of piracetam per day, depending on the brand consumed, the researchers note.

In Europe, where piracetam is prescribed for disorders including dementia and cognitive impairment, tablets are typically 800 mg or 1,200 mg and daily dosing tends to be 2,400 mg to 4,800 mg, the study team notes.

At doses lower than researchers found in some supplements available for purchase in the U.S., side effects of piracetam include anxiety, insomnia, agitation, depression, drowsiness and weight gain, the authors write.

Side effects may be worse at higher doses, although the precise risks are unknown, they point out.

Beyond the small number of samples tested, other limitations of the study include the possibility that amounts of piracetam in the supplements might vary over time, the study authors note.

Even so, consumers should steer clear of piracetam supplements, given the lack of evidence that it helps cognition and the potential harmful side effects, the researchers conclude.

“Clinicians should advise patients that supplements marketed as cognitive enhancers may contain prohibited drugs at supratherapeutic doses,” the study authors warn.

Source: Reuters

Study: Blood Test May Spot Brain Changes of Early Alzheimer’s

A simple blood test helped pinpoint the early signs of Alzheimer’s in a new study.

Up to two decades before people develop Alzheimer’s symptoms such as memory loss and confusion, harmful clumps of amyloid beta protein begin to accumulate in their brain, researchers explained.

But it’s possible to measure levels of amyloid beta in the blood and use that information to determine whether the protein has accumulated in the brain, they added.

Combining blood amyloid levels with two other major Alzheimer’s risk factors — age and the genetic variant APOE4 — can identify people who have early Alzheimer’s brain changes with 94% accuracy, according to the scientists from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The study included 150 adults over age 50 who had no thinking or memory problems.

The blood test may be even more sensitive than the current gold standard — a PET brain scan — at detecting early amyloid accumulation in the brain, according to the authors.

The findings advance efforts to have a blood test to identify people who will develop Alzheimer’s before they have symptoms, and such a test could be available in doctors’ offices within a few years, the researchers said.

They added that the benefits of the blood test would be even greater once there are treatments to stop the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers also noted that one difficulty in clinical trials of Alzheimer’s drugs is identifying patients who have Alzheimer’s brain changes but no symptoms. The blood test could provide an efficient way to find people with early signs of the disease to participate in drug clinical trials.

“Right now, we screen people for clinical trials with brain scans, which is time-consuming and expensive, and enrolling participants takes years,” explained study senior author Dr. Randall Bateman, a professor of neurology.

“But with a blood test, we could potentially screen thousands of people a month,” he said in a Washington University news release. “That means we can more efficiently enroll participants in clinical trials, which will help us find treatments faster, and could have an enormous impact on the cost of the disease as well as the human suffering that goes with it.”

Maria Carrillo, chief science officer the Alzheimer’s Association, said such a test would be welcomed.

“There is a great need for simple, reliable, inexpensive, noninvasive and easily available tools to support early detection and accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s,” she said.

“That said, while the results are encouraging, none of these tests is ready for use in doctors’ offices. They need to be verified in larger and more diverse populations,” Carrillo added.

“In fact, rather than in doctors’ offices, the first uses for these new techniques/technologies may be in clinical trials to identify possible participants who are most likely to benefit from the tested intervention,” she said.

The study was published in the journal Neurology.

Source: HealthDay


Today’s Comic

Sudoku, Crosswords Could Make Your Brain Years Younger

Mornings spent figuring out Sudoku or finessing a crossword could spell better health for aging brains, researchers say.

In a study of over 19,000 British adults aged 50 and over who were tracked for 25 years, the habit of doing word or number puzzles seemed to help keep minds nimble over time.

“We’ve found that the more regularly people engage with puzzles such as crosswords and Sudoku, the sharper their performance is across a range of tasks assessing memory, attention and reasoning,” said research leader Dr. Anne Corbett, of the University of Exeter Medical School.

“The improvements are particularly clear in the speed and accuracy of their performance,” she added in a university news release. “In some areas, the improvement was quite dramatic — on measures of problem-solving, people who regularly do these puzzles performed equivalent to an average of eight years younger compared to those who don’t.”

Does that translate to protection against Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia? The study “can’t say” at this point, Corbett said, “but this research supports previous findings that indicate regular use of word and number puzzles helps keep our brains working better for longer.”

The study was conducted online. Participants were assessed each year, and they were asked how often they did word and number puzzles. They were also given a series of tests measuring attention, reasoning and memory, to help assess changes in their brain function.

The result: The more often participants did word and number puzzles, the better their performance on the brain tests, Corbett’s group found.

Although the study couldn’t prove cause-and-effect, some differences were significant. Brain function for those who did word puzzles was equivalent to 10 years younger than their actual age on tests of grammatical reasoning, and eight years younger than their age on tests of short-term memory.

The findings are outlined in two papers published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, and add to results presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in 2018.

The study is now expanding into other countries, including the United States.

Brain experts in the United States weren’t surprised by the findings.

The large, decades-long study “confirmed what your grandmother told you: ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it,'” said Dr. Gayatri Devi. She’s a neurologist specializing in memory disorders at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

The fact that something as simple as puzzle-solving can take years off the brain is “a comforting finding,” Devi said.

She stressed that exercising the body can do the same. “Physical exercise is one proven way to keep our brains and our body healthy,” she said.

Dr. Gisele Wolf-Klein directs geriatric education at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. She said interventions to help the brain stay healthy longer are sorely needed.

“As older patients live longer, the growing number of Alzheimer’s patients represents a major challenge for health care systems worldwide,” Wolf-Klein said. “Currently, the pharmaceutical industry has yet to propose any promising medical treatments. So, searches for lifestyle interventions that might preserve cognition [thinking] has become a priority.”

“This study further supports many [prior] studies highlighting the benefits of mind exercises,” she said. It also “reinforces the need for all of us to keep our minds as active and engaged as possible.”

Source: HealthDay


Today’s Comic

Eating Nuts May Improve Brain Health

Long-term, high nut consumption could be the key to better cognitive health in older people according to new research from the University of South Australia.

In a study of 4822 Chinese adults aged 55+ years, researchers found that eating more than 10 grams of nuts a day was positively associated with better mental functioning, including improved thinking, reasoning and memory.

Lead researcher, UniSA’s Dr Ming Li, says the study is the first to report an association between cognition and nut intake in older Chinese adults, providing important insights into increasing mental health issues (including dementia) faced by an ageing population.

“Population aging is one of the most substantial challenges of the twenty-first century. Not only are people living longer, but as they age, they require additional health support which is placing unprecedented pressure on aged-care and health services,” Dr Li says.

“In China, this is a massive issue, as the population is ageing far more rapidly than almost any other country in the world.

“Improved and preventative health care – including dietary modifications – can help address the challenges that an aging population presents.

“By eating more than 10 grams (or two teaspoons) of nuts per day older people could improve their cognitive function by up to 60 per cent– compared to those not eating nuts – effectively warding off what would normally be experienced as a natural two-year cognition decline.”

China has one of the fastest growing aging populations. In 2029, China’s population is projected to peak at 1.44 billion, with the ratio of young to old dramatically imbalanced by the rising ranks of the elderly. By 2050, 330 million Chinese will be over age 65, and 90.4 million will be over age 80, representing the world’s largest population of this most elderly age group.

More broadly, the World Health Organization says that by 2020, the number of people aged 60 years and older will outnumber children younger than five years old.

The UniSA study analysed nine waves of China Health Nutrition Survey data collected over 22 years, finding that 17 per cent of participants were regular consumers of nuts (mostly peanuts). Dr Li says peanuts have specific anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects which can alleviate and reduce cognitive decline.

“Nuts are known to be high in healthy fats, protein and fibre with nutritional properties that can lower cholesterol and improve cognitive health,” Dr Li says.

“While there is no cure for age-related cognition decline and neurogenerative disease, variations in what people eat are delivering improvements for older people.”

The World Health Organization estimates that globally, the number of people living with dementia is at 47 million.

By 2030, this is projected to rise to 75 million and by 2050, global dementia cases are estimated to almost triple. China has the largest population of people with dementia.

“As people age, they naturally experience changes to conceptual reasoning, memory, and processing speed. This is all part of the normal ageing process,” Dr Li says

“But age is also the strongest known risk factor for cognitive disease. If we can find ways to help older people retain their cognitive health and independence for longer – even by modifying their diet – then this absolutely worth the effort.”

Source: University of South Australia

Study: Eating Mushrooms Protect Brain Health

Maria Cohut wrote . . . . . . . . .

Researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) near Clementi hypothesized that eating mushrooms could help preserve cognitive function in late adulthood. So, they conducted a new study to see whether they could find any evidence in this respect.

Their findings — which now appear in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease — suggest that the mushrooms common in Singaporean cuisine may help reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

The study lasted 6 years, from 2011 to 2017, and it included 663 participants aged 60 and older at baseline. The researchers recruited them through the Diet and Healthy Aging project.

The investigators focused on the consumption of some of the most common mushrooms that people in Singapore eat:

  • golden mushrooms
  • oyster mushrooms
  • shiitake mushrooms
  • white button mushrooms
  • dried mushrooms
  • canned button mushrooms

The team defined mushroom portion sizes as three-quarters of a cup of cooked mushrooms per portion, weighing about 150 grams, on average.

To gauge the association between eating mushrooms and MCI risk, the researchers also measured the participants’ cognitive abilities.

According to first study author Lei Feng, who is an assistant professor at NUS: “People with MCI are still able to carry out their normal daily activities. So, what we had to determine in this study is whether these [people] had poorer performance on standard neuropsychologist tests than other people of the same age and education background.”

“Neuropsychological tests are specifically designed tasks that can measure various aspects of a person’s cognitive abilities. In fact, some of the tests we used in this study are adopted from commonly used IQ test battery, the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale,” he adds.

The team also conducted targeted interviews and asked the participants to undergo a series of tests measuring aspects of physical and psychological functioning. “The interview,” Feng states, “takes into account demographic information, medical history, psychological factors, and dietary habits.”

Then, he continues, “A nurse will measure blood pressure, weight, height, handgrip, and walking speed.” Participants “also do a simple screen test on cognition, depression, anxiety.”

Finally, the team conducted 2-hour assessments of each person’s neuropsychological health and rated them on a dementia symptom scale.

‘A dramatic effect on cognitive decline?’

The researchers’ analysis revealed that eating more than two portions of cooked mushrooms per week could lead to a 50 percent lower risk of MCI. Feng says that “[t]his correlation is surprising and encouraging.”

“It seems that a commonly available single ingredient could have a dramatic effect on cognitive decline.” – Lei Feng

This is only a correlative observation, but the team believes that there may be a causal relationship involved.

Study co-author Dr. Irwin Cheah notes that the scientists are “very interested in a compound called ergothioneine (ET), […] a unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which humans are unable to synthesize on their own.”

However, “it can be obtained from dietary sources, one of the main ones being mushrooms.” The idea that ET may have a direct effect on the risk of cognitive decline, Dr. Cheah explains, came from a previous study that appeared in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications.

That research found that people with MCI had lower blood levels of the compound than healthy peers of the same age. Also, the researchers note, mushrooms contain many other substances whose exact role in brain health is not yet clear.

These include hericenones, erinacines, scabronines, and dictyophorines — a series of compounds that could contribute to the growth of neurons (brain cells).

Substances derived from edible mushrooms could also inhibit the production of beta-amyloid and phosphorylated tau, two toxic proteins whose overaccumulation in the brain coincides with the development of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

In the future, the researchers would like to conduct randomized controlled trial testing the effect of ET and other plant-derived compounds on brain health — specifically verifying their protective role against cognitive decline.

Source: Medical News Today