Alzheimer’s is one of the most devastating and dreaded diseases I’m confronted with at my South Florida anti-aging clinic.
And because I’m based in a part of the country that’s a major retirement Mecca, I see more seniors than the average American physician – and proportionally more Alzheimer’s sufferers.
Many patients fear Alzheimer’s more than cancer or any other debilitating disease.
They’re terrified of this cruel, progressive and degenerative illness that attacks the brain, steals memory, confuses thinking, and can turn even the most intelligent and achieving adults into mental infants.
Mainstream doctors will tell you there’s no way to reverse this dreaded scourge. And they’ll tell you that only expensive Big Pharma drugs have any chance of slowing its assault on your mind.
But the experience of the patients I’ve treated at my clinic tells me that mainstream medicine has got it wrong.
I believe in the brain’s power to heal itself – if you give it the proper nutrients. And I have seen it happen many times over the years.
For years, I’ve recommend one particular nutrient to help my Alzheimer’s patients, because I have long suspected that the disease is linked to nutrient deficiencies in immune system cells that normally protect the brain.
I’m talking about arginine and its nearly identical cousin L-arginine.1
Both of these amino acids have long been recognized as essential for the proper functioning of brain cells.
And now a new study from Duke University has just confirmed arginine’s power to fight against Alzheimer’s disease.2
More than 5 million Americans over the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. And its incidence doubles every five years after 65.3 At the same time, about 200,000 Americans have been diagnosed with “early-onset” Alzheimer’s in their 40s and 50s.4
Duke researchers recently discovered that Alzheimer’s turns special immune cells against the brain in the regions responsible for memory.
And these immune cells, called “microglia,” stimulate the production of an enzyme called arginase, which breaks down the arginine.
In tests on mice, the scientists found that these special immune cells malfunctioned and depleted arginine levels. And wherever the brain ran low on arginine, they also found the signs of Alzheimer’s – the neuron killers, called “plaques” and “tangles.”
This is a major scientific breakthrough and confirms the link between arginine and Alzheimer’s – a connection I’ve observed among my own patients for a long time.
At my anti-aging clinic, I have been encouraging my Alzheimer’s patients to take arginine for many years. And I’ve seen firsthand how it prevents their cognitive decline, keeping their minds sharp and their memories clear.
And numerous studies back up my observations.5,6,7,8,9,10
Arginine can be especially effective for dementia caused by impaired circulation, which is called vascular dementia. To improve circulation, the amino acid causes a biochemical reaction that creates nitric oxide.
This gas plays a key role in communication among all our cells.
For example, it activates telomerase, the enzyme that promotes the growth of telomeres, the tiny cellular “time clocks” that determine how long we will live.11
In other words, nitric oxide helps our cells live longer. And when nitric oxide production is blocked, telomeres become shorter, and cells die earlier.12
As a dementia-fighter, nitric oxide causes blood vessels to dilate.13
In the brain, these dilated blood vessels save cells from starving to death by delivering oxygen and nutrients. The blood vessels also help carry away toxic byproducts, like ammonia.
Arginine and nitric oxide also promote the creation of a two other brain-saving amino acids – creatine and glutamate
Creatine promotes a healthy nervous system throughout the body. Glutamate stimulates the brain’s neurons to communicate quickly and efficiently. And it’s especially active in the left hemisphere, which deals with logic, memory and language.
Your body can usually make enough arginine. And you can consume it from food.
So healthy, young people rarely have arginine deficiencies. But as you age, your body gradually loses its ability to make arginine.
This may explain why shortages of arginine and nitric oxide have often been linked to dementia in seniors.
Dementia creeps up on you. You start out forgetting where you put your keys. Then you lose your car in a parking lot. Eventually, you find yourself getting lost a half-mile from your home.
If you’re feeling forgetful, try replenishing your arginine with food. Some of best arginine-rich foods include:
If you’re still foggy, then it’s time to take some arginine supplements.
Make sure you buy either arginine or L-arginine. To your body, there’s no significant difference between these molecular cousins. But avoid D-arginine, which has more value in lab experiments than in your body.
You should also supplement with either citrulline or L-citrulline, two other biochemical relatives of arginine. The interaction of the amino acids further increases the production of nitric oxide.
You can get capsules of these nutrients from online or from health food stores. I recommend daily doses 6,000 mg. of arginine (or L-arginine) and 1,000 mg. of citrulline (or L-citrulline).
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Liu, P., et al. “Altered arginine metabolism in Alzheimer’s disease brains.” Neurobiol Aging. 2014 Sep;35(9):1992-2003. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2014.03.013. Epub 2014 Mar 20.
2. Duke Today. “A new potential cause for Alzheimer’s: Arginine deprivation.” April 14, 2015.
today.duke.edu/2015/04/arginine. Retrieved 4-16-15.
3. nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/topics/alzheimers-basics#howmany. Retrieved on 4-16-15.
4. alz.org/alzheimers_disease_early_onset.asp. Retrieved on 4-16-15.
5. Paul, V., and Ekhambraram, P. “Involvement of nitric oxide in learning & memory processes.” Indian J Med Res 133, May 2011, pp 471-478.
6. Ohtsuka Y, Nakaya J. “Effect of oral administration of L-arginine on senile dementia.” Am J Med. 2000 Apr 1;108(5):439.
7. Gage, S.L., and Nighorn, A. “The role of nitric oxide in memory is modulated by diurnal time.” Front Syst Neurosci, 2014, 8, pp. 59.
8. Rushaidhi, M., et al. “Аging affects L-arginine and its metabolites in memory-associated brain structures at the tissueand synaptoneurosome levels.” Neuroscience, 2012, 3, 21-31.
9. Pautler, E.L. “The possible role and treatment of deficient microcirculation regulation in age-associated memory impairment.” Med Hypotheses. 1994 Jun; 42(6):363-6.
10. Tarkowski E, et al. “Intrathecal release of nitric oxide in Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.” Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2000 Nov-Dec; 11(6):322-6.
11. Vasa, M., et al. “Nitric oxide activates telomerase and delays endothelial cell senescence.” Circ Res. 2000;87:540-542.doi: 10.1161/01.RES.87.7.540.
12. Scalera F, et. al. “Endogenous Nitric Oxide Synthesis Inhibitor Asymmertic Dimethyle L-Arginine Accelerates Endothelial Cell Senescence.” Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2004; 1816-1822.
13. Lerman, A, et al. “Long-term L-arginine supplementation improves small-vessel coronary endothelial function in humans.” Circulation. 1998; 97: 2123-2128. doi: 10.1161/01.CIR.97.21.2123.