Keeping The Mind Young

Paul Reid’s deteriorating memory became noticeable about three years ago, when his wife and employees realised that he was becoming absent minded, repeating statements he had said only a short while before, and forgetting appointments.   These symptoms appeared to lessen for a few months but John had simply recognised the unwanted attention he was receiving and became adept at masking his difficulties.

Although these signs are not always indicative of the onset of senility, Paul’s symptoms did become progressively worse.   Despite his excellent recall of  names and events from years before, his failure top remember more recent activities was creating problems at home and affecting his ability to operate a business.  At times he even appeared disorientated to his employees.  One day Paul did not come home from work, his wife telephoned the police who found John wandering aimlessly around town.   He explained that he had forgotten his way home.

Paul was lucky his senility was diagnosed relatively early, at a time when treatment is likely to be successful.  His diet was changed and supplemented with megadoses of vitamins and minerals which improved his brain chemistry.  A few months later he was as mentally and physically active as a man many years his junior.

Senility affects an estimated five percent of people over age 65 – more men than women – and at least ten percent of those over the age of 75.   These estimates are conservative, because there may be many undiagnosed cases of mild senility.

Patient histories like Pauls have contributed to the growing clinical and experimental evidence supporting the relationship between diet and mental health.  A few psychiatrists have long insisted that deficiencies of particular nutrients, which are ultimately the source of all brain chemicals, can affect mental performance.  But it has been in only the last several years that these ideas have moved from relatively obscure medical journals to the major ones, which are capable of disseminating information to large numbers of psychiatrists and physicians.

If the frequency of such articles published in medical articles is any indication, doctors and researchers are now actively investigating how specific nutrient deficiencies, inadequate oxygen and water, and high levels of aluminium influence the onset and progression of senility.   Logically, good nutrition, sufficient water and oxygen and avoidance of toxic metals can prevent and control senility.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirmed the relationship between diet and mental functioning.  James Goodwin M.D. and his colleagues at the University of New Mexico Medical School in Albuquerque studies 260 healthy subjects between the age of 60 and 94.   The vast majority of these elderly subjects had completed high school and half of them also finished college, indicating an average to above education.

Dr. Goodwin discovered that the five to ten percent of subjects with the poorest diets performed worse on memory and thinking tests  than  the  90  percent with better diets.  This low scoring five to ten percent was deficient in specific nutrients that the researchers concluded were critical to thinking and memory.  These nutrients were protein, Vitamin C and various B vitamins including niacin (B3) pyridoxine (B6) riboflavin (B2) thiamine (B1) cyanocobalamin (B12) and folic acid.   The 90 percent of the subjects who scored higher on the memory and thinking tests consumed diets with higher levels of these nutrients.

In an editorial in the same issue of JAMA Murray Raskind  M.C. of the University of Washington observed “Classic vitamin-deficiency diseases such as pellagra (niacin) and Wernicke’s syndrome (thiamine) scurvy (vitamin C) and pernicious anaemia (vitamin B12) all manifest cognitive dysfunction and even frank dementia as part of their clinical presentations.

Is it not then possible that the ‘subclinical’ nutrient deficiencies described in both the instutionalised and community elderly may impair cognitive function in later life? Furthermore, might nutrient supplementation be a rational approach to correct such cognitive dysfunction”?

In Canada Abram Hoffer M.D., Ph.D, has been treating senile patients with dietary improvements and supplemental vitamins and minerals for three decades.  In a recent interview, he expressed pleasure that the therapeutic use of diet and supplements is finally “permeating” major medical publications.   He explained that senility my be related to other diseased of ageing, such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis because all of these conditions share some underlying biochemical problems.

“There has been an increasing recognition that senility is related to over-oxidation” Dr. Hoffer said.   Although oxygen is essential for life, too much oxygen can damage insufficiently protected tissues from its corrosive effect, not unlike how oxygen corrodes unprotected iron.  To protect the body against the damaging effects of oxygen Dr. Hoffer recommends antioxidant therapy based on one theory that contends senility is caused by excessive oxidation of tissues and that ample antioxidant nutrients can prevent the disease.

Niacin also known as niacinamide and B3 head Dr. Hoffer’s list of anti-senility nutrients.   Niacin is the nutrient I have found by experience to be the most helpful he said.  Niacin triggers a release of histamine (lasting about one hour and disappearing as niacin intake is continued) which some people find uncomfortable.  Niacinamide does not have this effect and can be taken by people who cannot tolerate niacin.   But niacin does things that niacinamide does not:  it lowers serum cholesterol levels and increases high density lipoproteins (HDL) both of which are protective against heart disease.

P.O.W.S. and Stress

After World War 11 Dr. Hoffer studies many of the allied soldiers who were held captive in Japanese prisoner of war (P.O.W. camps)  These soldiers, some imprisoned for up to 44 months were under severe stress, physically beaten and suffered from a large number of diseases of malnutrition.   On their return to North America, the soldiers had a very high death rate for their ages.

In his study Dr. Hoffer realised that the stress and malnutrition had created an excessive rate  of ageing in these men with one year in a P.O.W. camp, equivalent to five normal years of ageing.  In other words, a prisoner of three years, then at the chronological age of 50 was at the physiological age of 65.  Dr. Hoffer was able to treat about a dozen of the P.O.W.s with one gram of niacin three times a day and these men recovered completely within weeks.  “ I was able to reverse the rapid ageing that had stated when they were in P.O.W. camps” he explained, expressing regret at not being able to treat more of the soldiers.

Dr. Hoffer also recommends supplemental vitamin A as part of his anti-senility diet.  Vitamin A helps maintain a youthful skin tone preventing the appearance of one of the first signs of ageing.  Vitamin C is important also as it has anti-bacterial and anti viral properties.

Those people who have exposed themselves to the ravages of ageing by drinking too much alcohol, using drugs and using excessively will benefit from Vitamin B1.