08 Aug 2016 --- A dietary supplement packed with a blend of 30 natural vitamins and minerals has shown remarkable anti-ageing properties that can prevent and even reverse brain cell loss.
That is the assertion from a team of researchers in the department of biology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. The mixture of natural ingredients, all of which are easily accessible from health stores, could someday slow down the progression of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
The hope is for the formula - that contains common ingredient like vitamins B, C and D, folic acid, green tea extract, cod liver oil and other nutraceuticals - to offset some very serious illnesses and ultimately improve quality of life.
It was initially designed back in 2000 and a series of studies published over the last decade and a half have shown the benefits in mice, both normal mice and those specifically bred for such research because they are rapidly, experiencing dramatic declines in cognitive and motor function in a matter of months.
NutritionInsight spoke with associate researcher Jennifer Lemon (pictured, center) from McMaster University, Canada, who explains what the main discoveries were and what the next steps could be. She says how the mice used in the study had widespread loss of more than 50 percent of their brain cells impacting multiple regions of the brain, the human equivalent of severe Alzheimer’s Disease.
The mice were fed the supplement on small pieces of bagel each day over several months and over time Lemon found that the formula completely eliminated the severe brain cell loss and abolished cognitive decline.
“All the research suggests there is a huge potential to help people suffering from neurological disease,” Lemon tells NutritionInsight.
“The fact that the complex is made up of things that you can buy over the counter - for us it’s been an astonishing experience. We went into this thinking ‘maybe it will work, maybe we’ll get to see something positive’, we had no idea we would see this kind of effectiveness. But I think what it really demonstrates is that if you protect something on a cellular level, it’s not about having one individual component that fixes things.”
“Disease itself and ageing itself is such a complex process and involves so many different mechanisms going wrong, that you need to support as many of them as you can to be able to have an effective intervention.”
“It’s not about the silver bullet of one drug; it has to be a balanced intervention.”
In addition to looking at the major markers of aging, the researchers also discovered that the mice on the supplements experienced enhanced vision and smell (loss of smell is often associated with neurological disease), and improved balance and motor activity.
Do you think this will translate well into humans? “This is ultimately the failure point for so many interventions. The transition from animal model into human has been a huge deal and a major failure point for a lot of things, but I think because we are going after some very fundamental mechanisms that go wrong in cells and that are the same regardless of the species, we will have positive effects.”
A human trial is starting later this year in the US and the team is working on approvals from the FDA, something Lemon says is easier in America compared with Canada.
“We have some collaborators in the US and will be looking how well the supplement works to reduce inflammation in patients who have had brain surgery. A very focused beam of radiation that they use to destroy benign brain tumors that cannot be operated on in any other way. The problem is you get a lot of inflammation in the area as a result and that causes cognitive decline, headaches and other functional issues so we’re going to see if the supplement can actually reduce that brain inflammation.”
“Alzheimer's patients is a next step as well, so this first one is stage two or three on ethicacy so we will look at normal healthy patients as well just to make sure the way the supplement is formulated is safe and that everybody can take it.”
“And then we will be moving into patients with cognitive issues either alzheimer's or dementia patients, we’re also looking at Parkinson’s, MS and ALS - these are the ones that we are prioritizing.”
Does it have a name? “We just called it a complex dietary supplement for our research paper but we do have a company that has, in the last couple of years been put together by some venture capitalists that are developing a human formulation.”
“There’s been a first version of it that didn’t really have glitches, it was more of a palatability issue on one component so they’ve gone back and re worked it into a version two and that’s what they are manufacturing right now.”
“The fact that we can get this from stuff that you can buy over the counter at the health food store, really suggests that if you design something based on scientific evidence with a very specific purpose in mind, instead of just putting stuff together because it's popular, you can really have a very profound effect on health.”
by Gaynor Selby
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