Galantamine Is Food for Thought

Galantamine Shines in Protecting Brain Function

Galantamine Is
Food for Thought
In which your brain is challenged to take prudent action on its own behalf
By Will Block

Don’t make me have to come down there. —God

ey, Brain! . . . Brain! . . . Yes, you—the brain behind the eyes of that person who’s looking at these words at this very moment—I know you’re in there. You can’t hide. Look, there’s something I want to . . . no, wait, I got that wrong. Looking is what your person’s eyes do. You have to do the thinking, OK? Think, there’s something I want to tell you. Here’s what it is: galantamine is good for you—for you, Brain. Remember that (you’re good at memory). The rest of this article will tell you why galantamine is good for you, so pay attention. It will be food for thought. You do like food, don’t you?

Good Food!

Speaking of food (we’ll get to galantamine, don’t worry), you should instruct that mouth just below you to ingest only good food, not junk food. Doesn’t the term “junk” tell you something about what it’s probably going to do to your person’s innards—and, for that matter, to you? (Are you thinking about this, Brain?) And tell the mouth not to pig out, for Pete’s sake, not even on good food. Again, the term “pig” should tell you something (although pigs are supposedly very smart, which you ought to appreciate).

There’s an infinite variety of wonderful, delicious, healthy foods to choose from out there—and they cost much less than junk food! All it takes to enjoy them is the commitment (that’s your department) for your person to shop for them and to take the time to prepare them nicely. That, of course, does take some self-discipline (hello, you again), but the payoff is so handsome in so many ways that it’s one of the best investments one can possibly make for a long, healthy, happy life. No offense, Brain, but . . . duh!

Regular Exercise!

Now that that’s settled, here’s another thing: tell that lazy body you supposedly control to get up off its duff and exercise! Make it break a sweat and burn calories—every day, if possible, but at least three or four times a week. If there’s one thing in the world that’s even more important for overall health than good nutrition—and there is, so think up—it’s regular exercise.

The health benefits of exercise are so varied and profound that even you might have trouble grasping them all (I know I do). I’ll spare you the book-length discourse it would take to cover them, but here’s the thing you should focus on: exercise provides great benefits not only to every single part of that body down there, but also to you, your splendid self—lord and master of your person, at least, if not of all that you survey.

MCI leads to nothing more harmful
than some mild impairment, of the
kind that seems to affect most
people as they approach elderly (or
even middle-aged) status—usually.

No joke: exercise is just as important for brains as it is for bodies. Perhaps even more important, because what, after all, is more vital to your person’s health and well-being (not to mention survival) than you? OK, the heart is a strong contender, but let’s face it, that little old pump would be absolutely useless without the silent signals from you telling it what to do, every second of every day, for your person’s entire life. You need to stay fit for that and the million other jobs you do.

Physical and Mental Exercise Are Required

Actually, Brain, you are uniquely dependent on exercise, because you alone need two kinds: the physical kind that stimulates circulation, lowers blood pressure, controls cholesterol levels, releases endorphins, etc., and the mental kind that keeps those 100 billion neurons of yours, and their 1 quadrillion interconnections, busy. Use ’em or lose ’em. It would be a shame to see your marvelous capabilities diminish needlessly through disuse and the accumulation of a kind of molecular “rust” in your neural synapses. Don’t let it happen! Keep busy! (That reminds me—we were going to talk about galantamine, which is a terrific neural rust-fighter—and we will, I promise.)

You may be wondering what kind of physical or mental exercises are best, particularly if your person’s body has some limitations that even you can’t help it overcome. Gosh, there are so many options, it would take too long to cover them here. It’s really not hard to come up with a bunch of them, though, if you put your, uh, self to it. It just takes a little imagination—and you’re the expert at that.

No Smoking, but Intelligent Drinking

OK, Brain, two more things to tell that mouth: (1) Don’t smoke. It will do horrendous damage to your person’s body and, more importantly, to you. This is (dare I say it?) a no-brainer. (2) Don’t drink more alcohol than is good for you. Actually, as scientific research has clearly shown, a little alcohol each day is good for you—well, for your person’s heart health, at any rate, and you should actively encourage that. It’s not only some of the exotic chemical compounds in beverages such as wine and beer that are good for you, but also the alcohol itself, believe it or not.

If alcohol is not your cup of tea, however, that’s fine. There are nutritional supplements containing the best molecules that grapes have to offer, such as resveratrol. But if you like to tell one of your person’s hands to lift a glass now and then, by all means do so—in moderation, of course. Best of all, by some accounts, are red wines, particularly those made from grapes grown at high altitudes (such as Argentina’s Cafayate Valley, at 6000 feet), where intense solar ultraviolet radiation stimulates the synthesis of healthful, antioxidant polyphenols (bet you didn’t know that, even if you are a Brain). The polyphenols also give the wine more complexity—a nice bonus.

About tea, by the way: your person’s mouth should drink a lot of green tea—green tea, got it?—which is undoubtedly the world’s most healthful beverage. Green tea contains a variety of antioxidant polyphenols, one of which is perhaps the most powerful natural anticancer agent yet discovered, a molecule called EGCG (for epigallocatechin gallate). But if your mouth, for some reason, doesn’t care for green tea, it can take a nutritional supplement that contains EGCG.

Mild Cognitive Impairment Creeps Up on You

Say, all that talk about supplements reminds me: I was going to tell you about galantamine, remember? Of course, it’s not as though you don’t know a lot about galantamine already, if your person’s eyes have been reading this magazine for the last couple of years [remember, e.g., “Remember Galantamine? (How Could You Forget?)” in Life Enhancement, September 2002]. Certain things about galantamine, however, bear repeating, because they’re so important for you, Brain. I don’t want to alarm you or offend you, but you’re really a somewhat delicate thing, and sometimes a little irresponsible to boot: you tend to take yourself for granted, as though your awesome powers will never diminish.

Would that that were true. In reality, you are susceptible to something called mild cognitive impairment (MCI), an almost imperceptible slowdown in your function that, as the years go by, takes a bit of the sharpness off the tack that you had always been. What—you hadn’t noticed? Well, you see, that’s the problem right there, isn’t it? It kind of creeps up on you, just like age itself, and you may not even realize it.

Alzheimer’s Disease Can Devastate You

You say you’re not worried about it? Well, fair enough, because it’s a relatively small and benign effect that doesn’t really matter all that much—usually. Uh-oh! I’ll bet that “usually” snapped you back to attention, in case you were drifting off. Here’s the deal: usually MCI leads to nothing more harmful than some mild memory and cognitive-function impairment, of the kind that seems to affect most people as they approach elderly (or even middle-aged) status. Often, however, MCI is the harbinger of something you surely don’t want to think about—but you must think about it (as only you can)—Alzheimer’s disease.

Those words should strike terror into yourself, because it’s you who are a potential target, you who could be devastated by the disease, you who could slowly fade from the light like the Cheshire cat, leaving not a smile but an empty shell of a person, whose loved ones will no longer recognize “it” as the entity you once were. In many cases, the loved ones, God help them, lose their capacity to love “it” any more, or even to care—the tragedy and the emotional and financial burdens are just too overwhelming. “It” then dies or is institutionalized to await a death that could still be years away. That’s no way to end life’s journey. You must avoid such a terrible fate.

Galantamine has proven to be
remarkably effective in slowing,
halting, or even, sometimes,
reversing the progress of
Alzheimer’s disease in
mild to moderate cases.

Just as, for example, you always instruct your person to go to great lengths (commendably so) to prevent any harm from coming to his or her eyes (the very eyes that are reading these words and relaying them to you), you should perhaps take your own safety more seriously, for a change. You should adopt whatever measures you can to preserve and protect your splendid self from the harm that could befall you if you lived long enough. And since it’s a sure bet that you want to live as long as possible, . . . well, you connect the dots, Brain.

Vitamin E Protects Brain Function

Recent research on vitamin E, one of the staples of every good nutritional program because of its valuable antioxidant effects in fatty tissues, has shown it to be even more beneficial than had previously been thought. It had long been known that vitamin E provides strong protection against heart disease and stroke by inhibiting the oxidation of lipids—most importantly, LDL-cholesterol, the “bad cholesterol”—in the blood. It also inhibits platelet aggregation, the process by which blood clots form in our arteries and veins, sometimes with fatal results.

Now it appears that vitamin E’s antioxidant power also plays a significant role in protecting and preserving brain function in aging people. In fact, research has shown that a high intake of vitamin E from foods or supplements correlates well with reduced cognitive decline. The effect is so strong at the highest levels of intake that they are equivalent to a decrease in chronological age of 8 to 9 years. (For a detailed discussion of all this, see “Vitamin E Keeps Your Brain Razor-Sharp” in Life Enhancement, November 2002).

Furthermore, research has shown that a high intake of vitamin E can significantly delay the onset of functional deterioration in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, particularly as reflected in the need for institutionalization.1 Patients taking a daily dose of 2000 IU of vitamin E (in the form of d,l-alpha-tocopherol) for 2 years had an average delay, compared with controls taking placebo, of 230 days before the occurrence of the so-called primary outcome of Alzheimer’s disease. This is defined as any of the following four events: loss of ability to perform activities of daily living, onset of clinically severe dementia, institutionalization, and death.

The difference between the vitamin E group and the control group was statistically significant only in regard to the delay in the need for institutionalization. There were measurable benefits in the other three outcomes, but they were not statistically significant. Nonetheless, the results were sufficiently impressive that the American Psychiatric Association now recommends the use of 2000 IU of vitamin E (1000 IU twice daily) for patients with moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. Sano M, Ernesto C, Thomas RG, Klauber MR, Schafer K, Grundman M, Woodbury P, Growdon J, Cotman CW, Pfeiffer E, Schneider LS, Thal LJ, for the Members of the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study. A controlled trial of selegiline, alpha-tocopherol, or both as treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. N Engl J Med 1997;336:1216-22.

Forget Plastics, Mr. Robinson — Supplements

In addition to having your person eat well, exercise regularly, abstain from smoking, and drink a little alcohol and a lot of green tea (or take resveratrol and EGCG supplements), you can command your person to acquire any number of nutritional supplements to compensate for the losses that time and age incur. Some such supplements are focused squarely on you—and that’s where galantamine shines (it’s a neural rust-fighter, remember?).

Galantamine, as you may recall, increases your acetylcholine levels by acting as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, thus enhancing the neurotransmissions that enable you to function properly. And, unlike other acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, galantamine acts as a modulator of your nicotinic receptors, helping both to protect them from degradation and to make them more receptive to acetylcholine molecules; both of these actions help to boost your acetylcholine activity, making you a healthier, sharper brain.

It seems highly likely that
galantamine will also prove to be
effective against MCI, a major
risk factor for dementia.

But, being a brain, you knew all that, right? Besides, we’ve gone into the technical stuff many times before, so let’s just get to the bottom line: galantamine’s dual mode of action on acetylcholine levels and activity has proven to be remarkably effective in slowing, halting, or even, sometimes, reversing the progress of Alzheimer’s disease in mild to moderate cases (see “Galantamine Combats Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia” in the November 2002 issue). It has even been shown recently that galantamine is effective in cases described as “advanced moderate” (see “Galantamine Works Even Better than Was Thought” in the April 2003 issue).

With Galantamine, the Earlier the Better

And here’s what is really important: although clinical evidence for it is not yet at hand, it seems highly likely that galantamine will also prove to be effective against MCI, the “normal aging” condition that is a major risk factor for both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, the other leading type of dementia (see “Galantamine May Help with Mild Cognitive Impairment” in the February 2003 issue).

If ever you wish to protect yourself, Brain, from the ravages of your own decline, it’s best to start early. Truer words were never spoken than, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” By the time you have Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia, serious damage has already been done, and even with galantamine, further damage is highly likely, albeit at a significantly slower pace than otherwise.

Insurance for Your Marbles

So, Brain, if you want to keep all your marbles (oh, that’s right, you are the marbles) and you think you may be at risk, use the wisdom that God gave you, and consider seriously the protective, preventive use of galantamine as an insurance policy against dementia. Like all insurance, galantamine costs money, but on the other hand, it’s not called “a gift from the gods” for nothing.

Dual-Action Galantamine

Galantamine provides a heralded dual-mode action for boosting cholinergic function: it inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, thereby boosting brain levels of acetylcholine, and it modulates the brain's nicotinic receptors so as to maintain their function. The recommended daily serving ranges from a low of 4 to 8 mg of galantamine to begin with to a maximum of 24 mg, depending on the individual's response.

For an added measure of benefit, it is a good idea to take choline, the precursor molecule to acetylcholine, as well as pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), an important cofactor for choline. Thus it is possible to cover all bases in providing the means to enhance the levels and effectiveness of your acetylcholine.

Will Block is the publisher and editorial director of Life Enhancement magazine.

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