Alzheimer's and the Need For Good Nutrition
by Jim Duffy
communicate, the loss of the ability to handle daily activities which will eventually
include eating and toileting skills. The disease rarely strikes before age 65 but then
evenly strikes both genders and is the fourth leading cause of death, after heart
disease, cancer and stroke.
The disease becomes more prevalent with age: at 65, it is 10-11% of the age group,
at 75 it affects 20% and at 85, 40% of the population will have Alzheimer's disease
(Source: Feinstein, ed. 1996). There is no definitive test for the Alzheimer's;
however it is accurately diagnosed in nearly all cases by the use of CAT scan or MRI
to rule out the other causes of senile dementia.
There are several theories about the disease which still remains a mystery; however
one such theory believes that it is a faulty enzyme that is related to neuron activity in
the brain. There are varying levels of the disease and its impairment and the condition
may affect each patient differently while still following the same pattern of decline.
The patient's family may first notice memory losses beyond what is normal and
some slight confusion. The patient will then typically start forgetting words for
common household items as well as names of people, places and things. The entire
personality may change and a person who was once sweet and loving can suddenly
become cruel and belligerent, even physically abusive.
Because they are confused, some Alzheimer's patients will become increasingly
agitated and may seek to "escape". Others may become convinced that they need
to go somewhere but will often forget where they are going or how to get back
home. This propensity to wander in addition to the ever declining life skills and
physical deterioration will eventually cause the family to realize that the loved one will
need to go to a specially set up facility for their long term care.
There is no set life expectancy for the patient once they have been diagnoses. While
it follows the same general pattern, Alzheimer's disease tends to move at its own
pace. The first stage, the beginning confusion and memory loss, can last several
years and progressively get worse. It may take several years for the second stage
to start and this too may last several years. The disease typically moves the fastest
once it gets to the third stage when getting the patient to eat or to properly care for
themselves becomes increasingly difficult. Because they are not getting enough
nutrition, this stage is where most Alzheimer's sufferers will start developing
secondary illnesses and conditions as well as an increased risk of fracture, especially
of the hip (Source: Ammer, 2005).
Once they reach this stage, many people with Alzheimer's will become bedridden and
will usually lose the ability to feed themselves. The disease may also cause them to
become unable to swallow, so it may become necessary for them to be feed via a
gastro-enteric tube (G-tube) or a naso-gastric tube (NG tube). At this point, most
patients are completely dependent on others for all aspects of their care.
Free Radical Damage
One of the working theories of Alzheimer's researchers is that the damage is caused
by free radicals that concentrate in the brain. Free radicals are produced in the body
by the burning of oxygen and are naturally found in the body. They cause damage in
the body by stealing an electron from a neighboring healthy cell for their own use.
Free radicals are unstable and can be found anywhere in the body, including in the
brain. While we all have free radicals in our body, there are some environmental
factors that increase their presence including: smoking and secondhand exposure to
cigarette smoke, pollution and alcohol.
Poor diet may also contribute to free radical damage as does over exposure to the
sun. A good diet that contains many of the antioxidant nutrients may protect the
body from free radical damage. One of these, Vitamin E is suggested by many
doctor's, however Vitamin E can be dangerous in high doses and may interfere with
the behavior and effectiveness of some medications, so it should only be added with
the advice or consent of a doctor. A second nutrient, thiamin, may also be beneficial
for improving the memory. Studies are being done on mega doses of the nutrient but
so far the results have not been phenomenal and the huge doses increase the risk of
Protein's Role in Developing the Disease
While there are no definitive determinations of how the disease gets started, one
theory is that it is the tangle of certain proteins in the brain that causes it to start and
to progress. ApoE is a blood protein that functions to transport cholesterol through
the blood stream. In Alzheimer's disease, this protein also deposits more amyloid
plaque compounds in the brain and may also cause it to harden there as well. People
with the ApoE-4 gene have eight times more risk of developing Alzheimer's disease
than those with only ApoE-2 or ApoE-3 genes (Source: Feinstein, ed. 1996).
A secondary study suggests that it is zinc that creates and hardens amyloid deposits
in the brain.
Protein's Role in Caring for the Health of the Patient
One of the continuing problems seen in Alzheimer's disease is with appetite and
eating. In many older people, the appetite starts declining while the need for
continued good nutrition continues just the same. In the average adult below the age
of 55, the need for protein stands at around.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.
Once the person hit's the age of 55 and older, the need for protein increases slightly,
to around a full gram of protein per kg. However, because the person with
Alzheimer's may not be eating correctly or may be forgetting to eat altogether, it
may be necessary to supplement some or all of their nutrition in other ways. Using
Profect, a liquid protein supplement from Protica may be beneficial because it is fast
enough to be consumed by the Alzheimer's patient and is small and portable. Profect
provides 25 grams of protein per 100 calorie serving, a full day's worth of Vitamin C
and 10% of the daily supply of the B Vitamins. It also has zero fats and zero carbs.
Protein shakes may also be a good suggestion and may be easier to give then solid
foods. As the disease progresses, many of the patients with Alzheimer's forget how
to chew and to swallow solid foods so sticking with liquid supplements may become
Christine Ammer. The New A to Z of Women's Health Fifth Edition. Checkmark
Books. New York, New York. 2005
Alice Feinstein, Managing Editor. Healing With Vitamins: The Most Effective Vitamin
and Mineral Treatments for Everyday Health Problems and Serious Disease. Rodale
Press. Emmaus, Pennsylvania. 1996
Helene MacLean., editor. Everywoman's Health: The Complete Guide to Body and
Mind. Fifth Edition. Doubleday Book and Music Clubs, Inc. Garden City, New York
About The Author
Jim Duffy (Protica Research)
Founded in 2001, Protica, Inc. is a nutritional research firm specializing in the
development of protein-rich, capsulized foods (dense nutrition in compact liquid and
food forms). Protica manufactures Profect protein beverage, IsoMetric, Fruitasia and
more than 100 other brands in its GMP-certified, 250,000 square foot facility.
You can learn more about Protica at Copyright - Protica Research -
Alzheimer's disease is a progressively
degenerative disease and the most
common cause of irreversible loss of
function in the elderly. It affects every
aspect of mental, physical and
emotional function, in about four
million Americans, with ten percent of
those inheriting the disease through a
faulty gene. There are several
theories about how and why the
disease starts, but it follows a typical
pattern for most people afflicted with
it (Source: MacLean, 1993).
The progress of Alzheimer's disease
is: memory loss, loss of the ability to
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