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Zone Living

Breaking down the latest research on Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition
Written By: Dr. Barry Sears, Ph. D | Creator of the Zone Diet

Written by Dr. Barry Sears
on March 18, 2016


Dr. Sears reveals clues on how to reduce the likelihood of Alzheimer’s Disease, because hoping you don't get it is very different than prevention.


Is Alzheimer’s in Your Future? We certainly hope not. But hoping is very different than prevention, since there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s once it develops. Yet, there are some tantalizing clues on how to reduce its likelihood. It’s not by doing crossword puzzles, but by reducing inflammation in the brain.


You can’t feel brain inflammation, but it is constantly lurking

Once you increase brain inflammation, your neurotransmitters lose their efficacy in transmitting information, cellular debris begins to accumulate in the nerves, and uncontrolled brain death begins to accelerate from that accumulated debris. All of these outcomes caused by increased neuroinflammaton explain virtually all of the clinical symptoms that we associate with Alzheimer’s.


If Alzheimer’s comes from increased inflammation, why can’t you just take a lot of anti-inflammatory drugs to prevent it like you might do to treat arthritis? It’s not quite that easy, since you have a blood-brain-barrier to prevent those anti-inflammatory drugs (as well as a lot of nasty things floating in the blood stream), from entering into the brain. However, there are two dietary nutrients that can easily enter the brain and thus can significantly reduce neuroinflammation.


It’s a no brainer: Omega-3 fatty acids to the rescue

The first is omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (like EPA and DHA) are found in fish oil and have no barrier to enter the brain. But that is only true if levels in the blood are high enough. If so, then the higher levels of EPA entering into the brain can act as an anti-inflammatory agent to reduce the production of arachidonic acid (AA) that causes brain inflammation.


More importantly, both EPA and DHA act as building blocks to make incredibly pro-resolution hormones (resolvins) that clean up cellular garbage in the nerve cells that can induce their accelerated destruction. The key is having adequate levels of these omega-3 fatty acids in the blood.


How do you know if you do? The answer is the AA/EPA ratio in the blood. This ratio has shown to have remarkable correlation with Alzheimer’s disease. In 2000, it was shown that using age-matched individuals with Alzheimer’s disease had twice the AA/EPA ratio than those with normal cognition. Ideally, the AA/EPA ratio for maximum brain health should be about 1.5, as it is in the Japanese population. Unfortunately for Americans, their average AA/EPA ratio is about 18. This may explain why death rates in America from Alzheimer’s are dramatically increasing (by 78%) in the past decade.


How can you determine your AA/EPA ratio? Easy, order a blood test at zonediagnostics.com.


Decreasing the AA/EPA ratio is relatively easy. Just take more fish oil. However, that’s true as long as the fish oil is highly refined to reduce the levels of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) that are found in every fish (and thus in every fish oil product) in the world today. This is because PCBs are known neurotoxins.


Like the old advertisement for the Roach Motel cockroach trap, once PCBs “check in, they don’t check out.” That’s why I have spent many years developing the manufacturing techniques to dramatically reduce PCB levels in fish oils so you could get the benefits of EPA and DHA without their fellow travelers (i.e., PCBs).


A wonderfully colorful compound: Polyphenols

The other nutrient to reduce neuroinflammation is a class of compounds called polyphenols. These are the chemicals that give fruits and vegetables their color.


At high enough concentrations, polyphenols are powerful gene activating agents, especially for anti-aging genes. The only trouble is like the omega-3 fatty acids, you have to have adequate levels in the blood to make sure they get in to the brain to activate those anti-aging genes that slow down brain aging. Unfortunately, the absorption of polyphenols from the diet is much more limited than are omega-3 fatty acids. That is, except for one class of polyphenols. Those polyphenols are called delphindins. They are found in small amounts in red wine and blueberries. The highest concentration of delphindins can be found in the maqui berry that only grows in the Patagonia region of Chile.


The daily consumption of concentrated extracts of maqui berry polyphenols, along with adequate intake of EPA and DHA, represents a sophisticated dietary strategy to slow down brain aging by reducing neuroinflammation. Of course, maybe you will be lucky and will never get Alzheimer’s. I personally don’t share such blind optimism. That’s why I take adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols on a daily basis. I am sure my brain will thank me in the years to come.

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