In our last blog, we discussed the health needs of older people – a group that is rapidly growing as the global population ages. Here we look in more detail at what their needs are and how nutritional supplements can help meet them.
Normal Aging vs. Dementia
Adapted from: Golomb et al, Dialogues in clinical neuroscience. 2004;6:351-367
As we get older, our bodies are affected by the accumulation of a wide variety of molecular and cellular damage, making us more vulnerable to disease.
Our brains are affected by this deterioration relatively early in life. Age-associated memory loss can begin in people as young as 30, and is often evident by middle age. In the later stages of life, cognitive decline can become more severe, sometime leading to conditions such as dementia.
Memory loss and other effects of cognitive decline, such as low mood, can have a profoundly negative impact, and of course people should not stop striving for quality of life as they get older. So what can seniors do to protect themselves, and what can we do to help them?
Meeting the Cognitive Needs of Older People
Population ageing, and the large increase in the prevalence of cognitive decline that it is causing, necessitates major social changes. Health and social care systems will have to adapt, and familial relationships will need to change. But a greater focus on healthier lifestyles, both for societies at large and for individuals, is also a key part of the answer.
Studies show that nutrition, along with physical activity, affects cognitive performance throughout life and that a deficit of important nutrients contributes to the development of brain pathologies as we age.
One of the most important brain nutrients is phosphatidylserine (PS). Its importance is underlined by the fact that it accounts for 3% of the total phospholipids in the body’s cell membranes, but 18% of those in neuronal tissues, such as the brain.
Maintaining PS levels in neuronal tissues has been associated with efficient signal transduction processes and other biological pathways crucial for healthy cognitive function.
However, levels of dietary PS intake have fallen in recent years, requiring us to get it from other sources, such as supplements. Clinical trials have demonstrated the clear benefits of PS supplementation on memory, concentration and other functions in elderly populations with various degrees of cognitive deterioration. In one key randomized, double blind, placebo control study memory scores in 79 Japanese elders following PS treatment were significantly increased, while those of the placebo group remained unchanged. (Kato-Kataoka et al. J Clin Biochem Nutr 47, 246-255, 2010)
At Enzymotec, we have evaluated the efficacy of our own Sharp•PS® in an open label study conducted on 26 older patients with memory complaints. After only six weeks of Enzy PS administration, recognition and recall were significantly improved, suggesting benefits for cognitive ability in the elderly. (Richter et al, Clinical interventions in aging 8, 557-563, 2013.)
Higher levels of cognitive decline are, sadly, a price we have to pay for the blessing of living longer. But there is much we can do to fight it, and dietary supplements containing PS are among the most effective weapons we have.