Health supplements as viable mid-life interventions for age-related cognitive decline
The link between natural and pathological brain aging continues to be explored by neuroscientists, and the emerging neuropathological evidence suggests that the transition point between the two may be blurred. Among the many commonalities between natural and pathological brain aging, there is the strong belief that both types of degradation begin decades before psychological symptoms become apparent. As a result, a strong push in the scientific field has been for the exploration of mid-life interventions, specifically the role lifestyle factors such as exercise and diet play in ameliorating the deleterious effects of cognitive decline. While there remains no definitive solution for what we should and shouldn’t do to promote healthy brain aging, we must continue to look at the broad biological implications of possible interventions. Health supplements are one such intervention, with the potential to slow and/or prevent the development of age-related cognitive decline. There are, however, challenges that need to be addressed before we see wider acceptance of the therapeutic potential of health supplements.
BRAIN AGING – WHAT IS IT?
Age-related cognitive decline is the natural deterioration in the brain’s performance over time and is not unique to humans. Nearly all animals, from the tiniest of worms, to snails, rodents and even your average household dog, will experience natural cognitive decline (6-9). Humans begin to show signs of age-related cognitive impairment, most notably in learning and memory, in their 40s (10), with symptoms accelerating significantly past the age of 60.
In general terms, natural cognitive decline does not involve widespread neuronal atrophy, such as what is observed in, and usually defines, pathological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Dementias, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form, often lead to dependence and impairment, affecting over 44 million people worldwide with forecasts doubling that number every 20 years (11, 12). Of global concern are the growing social and monetary costs associated with caring for individuals who are living with these conditions.
As we continue to ...