Alzheimer’s Disease- Could Irisin Be the Cure?
The one thing that strikes fear into the hearts of most people on this planet is the prospect of losing their mental capacity, such as having Alzheimer’s. To be honest, I am no different. Let’s face it, it’s terrifying.
Now, most of you would appreciate that if you don’t actively try and maintain your physical capacity through exercise as you age, then you will be likely to see declines in your functional ability. It’s pretty obvious. But what if you could take certain steps to maintain your mental capacity as well.
Wouldn’t you do the same?
Concerning Alzheimer’s Disease, recent research suggests there may be a potential cure in Irisin.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is commonly described as a progressive and degenerative neurological condition. It is caused by nerve cell death, that gradually results in the physical shrinking of the brain and nervous tissue.
It’s really not all that nice.
The devastating symptoms of this degenerative disease can include:
- Memory loss (especially short-term memory)
- Disorientation of time
- Impaired judgment
- Loss of normal thought processes
- Reduction in coordination
- Difficulty learning
- Loss of concentration
- Reduction in language and communication skills
- Alterations in personality, behavior, and mood
- Severe and unexplainable agitation
- Depression and anxiety
It is important to note that Alzheimer’s disease is also the most common form of dementia on the planet. It is increasing in incidence alongside the rising age of the global population.
In fact, there are now more than 35 million people affected by this disease worldwide (Prince, 2013)
Related Article: Isometric Exercise and Alzheimer’s Disease
How is Alzheimer’s Disease currently treated?
One of the reasons that Alzheimer’s disease is considered to be so severe is because the decline in function from the date of diagnosis is typically quite rapid.
Taking this into consideration, unofficial estimates indicate that this disorder ranks as the third leading cause of death in the United States.
To clarify, the third leading cause of death in the United States is Alzheimer’s disease.
Treating the Symptoms
While there are certain treatments that can help manage the symptoms of Alzheimer’s – there is still no clear cure for this debilitating illness.
As such, most current treatments simply aim to help people manage. These treatments help to maintain mental function, manage behavioral symptoms, and slow the progression of the disease, rather than actually treat it.
These ‘treatments’ essentially revolve around prescription medications that act on certain neurotransmitters in the brain. They do this by increasing their effectiveness, while simultaneously helping slow brain cell deterioration.
Over time many of these drugs actually lose their effectiveness, ultimately rendering them useless unless they are prescribed in high dosages – but, at higher dosages, they also have the potential to elicit a number of side effects (including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and loss of appetite, to name a few).
You see the problem here?
Which is why so much health research has been dedicated to finding a lasting treatment to this shattering disease.
Which is exactly where Irisin enters the discussion. Irisin could potentially be a new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
Irisin, a new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease
Just this week gone, the world-renowned journal ‘Nature’ published a somewhat ground-breaking study on a specific compound known as Irisin, in which they suggested that it play a role in the long-term treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (Lourenco, 2019).
As I said, this Alzheimer’s treatment research is literally groundbreaking.
Irisin is a type of myokine – a protein that is produced and released by muscle cells in response to muscular contractions.
There are literally hundreds of different types of myokines found within the human body, many of which exhibit various positive hormonal and neural effects.
But Irisin is a little different.
You see, this specific myokine also acts in the brain.
Laboratory-based research in both mice and human tissue has shown that this rather amazing compound interacts with the tissue of the brain, promoting the growth and development of new neural tissue.
Within this, it subsequently appears to reverse age-related declines in memory and cognitive function, in which it ultimately exhibits a neuroprotective effect on the brain – thus acting as a potential treatment to Alzheimer’s disease.
As in, a real treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
What are the alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease?
Now you might also be wondering if there are any alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease – and interestingly, there is some research supporting the use of certain natural compounds to help stave off symptoms.
I should not that these alternative treatments should not be sued alone, but may offer some benefit when used in conjunction with other treatment modalities – which I will touch on a little later.
Those that have some research behind them include:
- Coconut Oil
- Coenzyme Q10
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Coconut Oil for Alzheimer’s disease
Coconut oil contains a specific compound known as caprylic acid – a unique type of fatty this is broken down by the liver into substances called ketones.
Ketones are used in the brain as an alternative source of energy, where they have also been shown to enhance brain function, improve brain and neural tissue health, and even stave off cognitive decline.
As a result, some research supports the use of coconut oil as an adjunct natural treatment (Maynard, 2013).
Coenzyme Q10 for Alzheimer’s disease
Coenzyme Q10 (also known as ubiquinone) is a specific antioxidant that is found naturally occurring within the human body, in which it is needed for normal cell reactions to take place.
Cell-based studies have shown that Coenzyme Q10 may have the potential to reduce some of the harmful inflammation associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, while also improving brain function.
However, more human research is needed before it can be recommended as a true remedy (Hernández-Camacho, 2018).
Omega 3 Fatty Acids for Alzheimer’s disease
Finally, we have omega 3 fatty acids.
An omega 3 fatty acid is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (or PUFA for short) that has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. Interestingly, recent research has also shown that higher intakes of omega 3 fatty acids may also reduce the risk of developing dementia and cognitive decline.
You see, these fatty compounds are also found in the membranes that surround nerve cells within the brain. Subsequently, increasing your omega-3 consumption can improve their ability to function and survive, thus acting as a potential addition to more traditional Alzheimer’s treatments (Canhada, 2018).
Are there lifestyle remedies for Alzheimer’s disease?
If you have been this article reading closely, you might have released something.
You might have realized that Irisin – AKA, our amazing new Alzheimer’s treatment – is not just any old compound, but a myokine.
Which means that it is secreted after exercise.
So yes, while it certainly does indicate that we can use synthetic forms of Irisin as a treatment, it also provides a huge tick of approval for one of our more potent natural lifestyle remedies for Alzheimer’s disease – being exercise.
By immediately increasing Irisin secretion throughout the body, exercise can have an immediate effect on brain health and cognitive function.
As a bonus, exercise also has the capacity to reduce chronic inflammation throughout the body – which can cause further improvements in brain and nervous system health, while also staving off declines in cognition.
All of which means that exercise offers the perfect natural means of not only reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, but also improving upon its symptoms.
As I said, exercise truly is one of the most potent lifestyle remedies Alzheimer’s disease in existence.
Related Article: Exercise, Fitness, And Alzheimer’s Disease
What are the best exercises for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s?
When we are talking about exercise to prevent dementia, memory loss, and stave off Alzheimer’s disease, there is unfortunately no clear consensus on what the best activity regime would be – however, there is enough evidence to support the application of both aerobic training and resistance training as important modalities.
Achieving the recommended 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week has been shown to cause significant improvements in the functional and cognitive capacity of Alzheimer’s disease patients when compared to those who only participate in light stretching (Morris, 2017).
So, this is obviously a very good place to start.
In conjunction with this moderate intensity aerobic activity, it is also in your best interest to start implementing resistance training (AKA weights training) into your weekly exercise routine.
In fact, 6 months of consistent resistance training alone has been shown to be effective. There were significant improvements in attention capabilities, behavioral resolution ability, and memory capacity, all while enhancing brain tissue neuroplasticity, in Alzheimer’s patients (Nagamatsu, 2012).
Resistance training alone has the potential to improve brain health and stave off Alzheimer’s disease.
Which is pretty damn incredible if you step back and think about it.
With all this in mind, the best exercises for people with Alzheimer’s disease is a combination of both aerobic and resistance training.
To achieve your 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, you could simply aim to go for a 30 minute jog every day of the week – then proceed to sprinkle in two session of full-body weights training per week, and you have a recipe for success.
Take home message
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most debilitating on the planet – and when you combine this with its limited treatment options, well, you have a recipe for disaster.
Which is why finding a potential cure in the compound Irisin is so massive. It really could change millions of lives per year for the better.
But with this, it is still important to remember that we do have other methods of preventing this terrible disease – of which the most powerful is exercise. So, make sure you train regularly and look after yourself as well as you can. Trust me when I say your brain will thank you for it.
Prince, Martin, et al. “The global prevalence of dementia: a systematic review and metaanalysis.” Alzheimer’s & dementia 9.1 (2013): 63-75.
Lourenco, M, et al, “Exercise-linked FNDC5/irisin rescues synaptic plasticity and memory defects in Alzheimer’s models.” Nature Medicine 26 (2019): 156-175.
Maynard, Steven Douglas, and Jeff Gelblum. “Retrospective case studies of the efficacy of caprylic triglyceride in mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.” Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment 9 (2013): 1629.
Hernández-Camacho, Juan D., et al. “Coenzyme Q10 supplementation in aging and disease.” Frontiers in physiology 9 (2018): 44.
Canhada, Scheine, et al. “Omega-3 fatty acids’ supplementation in Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review.” Nutritional neuroscience 21.8 (2018): 529-538.
Morris, Jill K., et al. “Aerobic exercise for Alzheimer’s disease: a randomized controlled pilot trial.” PloS one 12.2 (2017): e0170547.
Nagamatsu, Lindsay S., et al. “Resistance training promotes cognitive and functional brain plasticity in seniors with probable mild cognitive impairment.” Archives of internal medicine 172.8 (2012): 666-668.
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