MEDLINE Abstracts: Antioxidants and the Aging Brain

September 27, 2002

MEDLINE Abstracts: Antioxidants and the Aging Brain

Read the newest information on the role of antioxidants in the aging brain in this easy-to-navigate collection of recent MEDLINE abstracts.



Grundman M, Grundman M, Delaney P
Proc Nutr Soc. 2002;61:191-202

Oxidative damage is present within the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD), and is observed within every class of biomolecule, including nucleic acids, proteins, lipids and carbohydrates. Oxidative injury may develop secondary to excessive oxidative stress resulting from beta-amyloid-induced free radicals, mitochondrial abnormalities, inadequate energy supply, inflammation or altered antioxidant defences.

Treatment with antioxidants is a promising approach for slowing disease progression to the extent that oxidative damage may be responsible for the cognitive and functional decline observed in AD. Although not a uniformly consistent observation, a number of epidemiological studies have found a link between antioxidant intake and a reduced incidence of dementia, AD and cognitive decline in elderly populations. In AD clinical trials molecules with antioxidant properties such as vitamin E and Ginkgo biloba extract have shown modest benefit.

A clinical trial with vitamin E is currently ongoing to determine if it can delay progression to AD in individuals with mild cognitive impairment. Combinations of antioxidants might be of even greater potential benefit for AD, especially if the agents worked in different cellular compartments or had complementary activity (e.g. vitamins E, C and ubiquinone). Naturally-occurring compounds with antioxidant capacity are available and widely marketed (e.g. vitamin C, ubiquinone, lipoic acid, beta-carotene, creatine, melatonin, curcumin) and synthetic compounds are under development by industry. Nevertheless, the clinical value of these agents for AD prevention and treatment is ambiguous, and will remain so until properly designed human trials have been performed.

Meydani M, Meydani M
Proc Nutr Soc. 2002;61:165-171

Aging is a complex biological process, which usually is accompanied by changes in socio-economic status, which may have a great impact on the physical and nutritional status of the elderly. Decreased food intake and a sedentary lifestyle in the growing numbers of the elderly increase their risk for malnutrition, decline of bodily functions and developing chronic diseases.

Oxidative stress is believed to be an important factor in aging and many age-associated degenerative diseases. Modulation of oxidative stress by energy restriction in animals has been shown to be one of the mechanisms for retarding the aging process. Dietary antioxidants are regarded as being important in modulating oxidative stress of aging and age-associated diseases. Supplementation of the elderly with vitamin E has been shown to enhance immune response, delay onset of Alzheimer's disease, and increase resistance to oxidative injury associated with exercise. Vitamin E, in comparison with other antioxidants, is also effective in reducing viral titres, but not the longevity of middle-aged mice.

Our studies have indicated that polyphenols or vitamin E may assist in preventing cardiovascular disease, in part by decreasing expression by endothelial cells of proinflammatory cytokines, adhesion molecules, and monocyte adhesion. Most recently, we have found that some of these antioxidants may prevent tumour growth by inhibiting angiogenesis via suppression of interleukin 8 and modulation of the cell junction molecule, VE-cadherin. These findings provide further support for the consumption of fruit and vegetables, which contain several forms of phytochemicals with antioxidant activity, in order to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among the elderly.

Morris MC, Evans DA, Bienias JL, et al
Arch Neurol. 2002;59:1125-1132

Background: Previous studies raise the possibility that antioxidants protect against neurodegenerative diseases.
Objective: To examine whether intake of antioxidant nutrients, including vitamin E, vitamin C, and carotene, is associated with reduced cognitive decline with age.
Design: Longitudinal population-based study conducted from September 17, 1993, to November 20, 2000, with an average follow-up of 3.2 years.
Patients: The patients were 2889 community residents, aged 65 to 102 years, who completed a food frequency questionnaire, on average 18 months after baseline.
Main Outcome Measure: Cognitive change as measured by 4 tests (the East Boston Memory Test, which tests immediate and delayed recall; the Mini-Mental State Examination; and the Symbol Digit Modalities Test) at baseline and 3 years for all participants, and at 6 months for 288 randomly selected participants.
Results: We used random-effects models to estimate nutrient effects on individual change in the average score of the 4 cognitive tests. The cognitive score declined on average by 5.0 x 10(-2) standardized units per year. There was a 36% reduction in the rate of decline among persons in the highest quintile of total vitamin E intake (-4.3 x 10(-2) standardized units per year) compared with those in the lowest quintile (-6.7 x 10(-2) standardized units per year) (P =.05), in a model adjusted for age, race, sex, educational level, current smoking, alcohol consumption, total calorie (energy) intake, and total intakes of vitamin C, carotene, and vitamin A. We also observed a reduced decline with higher vitamin E intake from foods (P =.03 for trend). There was little evidence of association with vitamin C or carotene intake.
Conclusion: Vitamin E intake, from foods or supplements, is associated with less cognitive decline with age.

Gemma C, Mesches MH, Sepesi B, et al
J Neurosci. 2002;22:6114-6120

Antioxidants and diets supplemented with foods high in oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) reverse age-related decreases in cerebellar beta-adrenergic receptor function. We examined whether this effect was related to the antioxidant capacity of the food supplement and whether an antioxidant-rich diet reduced the levels of proinflammatory cytokines in the cerebellum.

Aged male Fischer 344 rats were given apple (5 mg dry weight), spirulina (5 mg), or cucumber (5 mg) either in 0.5 ml water by oral gavage or supplied in the rat chow daily for 14 d. Electrophysiologic techniques revealed a significant decrease in beta-adrenergic receptor function in aged control rats. Spirulina reversed this effect. Apple (a food with intermediate ORAC) had an intermediate effect on cerebellar beta-adrenergic receptor physiology, and cucumber (low ORAC) had no effect, indicating that the reversal of beta-adrenergic receptor function decreases might be related to the ORAC dose.

The mRNA of the proinflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFalpha) and TNFbeta was also examined. RNase protection assays revealed increased levels of these cytokines in the aged cerebellum. Spirulina and apple significantly downregulated this age-related increase in proinflammatory cytokines, whereas cucumber had no effect, suggesting that one mechanism by which these diets work is by modulation of an age-related increase in inflammatory responses. Malondialdehyde (MDA) was measured as a marker of oxidative damage. Apple and spirulina but not cucumber decreased MDA levels in the aged rats. In summary, the improved beta-adrenergic receptor function in aged rats induced by diets rich in antioxidants is related to the ORAC dose, and these diets reduce proinflammatory cytokine levels.

Kumar MH, Gupta YK
Phytomedicine. 2002;9:302-311

In the present study aqueous, methanolic, chloroform and petroleum ether extracts of seeds of Celastrus paniculatus were investigated for their effect on cognitive functions in rats. Male Wistar rats weighing 200-250 g each were used to study effect on learning and memory through use of the shuttle-box, step-through, step-down and elevated plus maze paradigms. Only the aqueous seed extract (200 mg/kg body wt. for 14 days) showed an improvement in learning and memory in both the shuttle-box and step-through paradigms. Therefore, further experiments were conducted using the aqueous extract at 100, 200 and 300 mg/kg body wt. doses in different paradigms of cognition. All three doses of the aqueous extract increased the number of avoidances in the shuttle-box and step-through latency the in step-through apparatus, but no significant difference was observed between the doses tested. In the step-down apparatus, the 200- and 300-mg/kg body wt. doses of aqueous extract showed a significant increase in step-down latency, whereas no significant difference was observed in the elevated-plus-maze paradigm between drug-treated and vehicle-treated groups. Since the behavioral impairments are associated with oxidative stress, we investigated the effect of the aqueous extract on oxidative stress parameters. Among the three doses tested, only 200 and 300 mg/kg body wt. stimulated a significant decrease in the brain levels of malondialdehyde, with simultaneous significant increases in levels of glutathione and catalase. The present findings indicate that the aqueous extract of Celastrus paniculatus seed has cognitive-enhancing properties and an antioxidant effect might be involved.

Sofic E, Rustembegovic A, Kroyer G, Cao G
J Neural Transm. 2002;109:711-719

Summary: The role of free radicals (FR) in the pathogenesis and in the progression of many diseases has been often discussed, but not widely investigated. However, the total antioxidant capacity in the serum seems to be of great evidence. Total antioxidant capacity was determined using oxygen absorbance capacity assay (ORAC) in serum of patients suffering from depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease (AD), anorexia nervosa, Parkinson's disease (PD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), AIDS-encephalopathy, diabetic polyneuropathy (PNP), cardiomyopathy (CM), renal disease, and healthy individuals as controls (C). The results showed that the total antioxidant capacity in serum decreased significantly (p < 0.01) by 24, 20, 13, and 17% for anorexia nervosa, AIDS-encephalopathy, PNP and CM respectively. In serum of patients with renal disease significantly elevated antioxidant capacity was found. The data indicated that increased oxidative stress can be involved in the pathogenesis or in the progression of PNP and CM. Decrease of serum antioxidant capacity in patients with anorexia nervosa and AIDS-encephalopathy are probably due primarily to malnutrition and secondly to insufficient antioxidant and immune system. In renal disease, the accumulation of urea in serum seems to be responsible for high antioxidant capacity. In contrast, there were no changes in PD, AD, depression syndrome and schizophrenia.

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