Patients wanted for Berlin study
Research into the incurable Alzheimer's disease is well advanced. Suffering is not curable, but at least an outbreak can be prevented. Berlin scientists have identified specific food substances that can prevent Alzheimer's from developing. The secret: precisely those substances trigger "self-cleaning processes in the brain cells". One substance is said to be spermidine. "Previous data suggest that so-called polyamines, especially spermidine, have a positive effect on brain function and mental abilities," reports Professor Agnes Flöel from the Neurological University Clinic in Greifswald. A study at the Charité in Berlin under the direction of Professor Flöel is currently investigating the influence of the active ingredient from wheat germ on learning ability and memory.
There is a lot of reporting - and a lot of speculation - about the potential effects of nutrients and “smart drugs” on mental fitness. The dementia researcher explained today, at the start of the congress of the German Society for Neurology (DGN) in Leipzig, what modern neurological research knows about the influence of eating on the performance of the brain.
With the Berlin “SmartAge” study, the researchers are investigating the effect of a 12-month administration of natural spermidine from wheat germ on learning and memory as well as on the structure of the brain. Elderly, still healthy people participate in the study, whose memory, according to their own assessment, has deteriorated. Study participants are still being sought (see below).
"We know from other studies that people with a perceived deterioration in memory who are worried about dementia actually have an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease," explains Professor Flöel, director of the University Clinic for Neurology in Greifswald. The neurologist is researching how dementia and cognitive impairments can be influenced by lifestyle. She recently moved from Charité in Berlin to Greifswald, but continues to lead the Berlin study. Lifestyle studies are trending, because against the background of aging society, keeping the brain healthy is becoming an increasing focus of science. Epidemiologists worldwide expect the number of dementia cases to double or quadruple by 2050, and efforts to date to treat causal therapy for Alzheimer's disease that has already broken out have been unsuccessful, despite worldwide research and multi-billion dollar investments. The search for prevention strategies is therefore of high medical, health policy and economic relevance.
Spermidine reduces cell waste
Neuroscientists currently attribute great potential to prevent mental degradation to spermidine. Spermidine is an endogenous product of cell metabolism and plays an important role in the maintenance of cell processes. External spermidine intake via food extends the lifespan of so-called model organisms such as yeast, worms and fruit flies and stops the age-related memory loss in fruit flies - an effect that researchers attribute to the increase in so-called autophagy processes. With this self-cleaning process, the cell digests and destroys its scrap, for example disease-causing protein deposits. The Nobel Prize in Physiology was awarded in 2016 for research into the mechanisms of autophagy. These protein deposits are the basis of almost all neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Boosting this self-cleaning process could thus prevent these diseases.
Active ingredient from wheat germ
Spermidine in food also seems to benefit the human brain. "In our own small study, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, just like the larger study that is now in progress, we examined the effects of natural spermidine, which was obtained from wheat germ and packaged in capsules, on learning and memory," explains Professor Flöel. "We were able to show that memory performance tends to improve after just three months of use, with the capsules being very well tolerated."
Scientists classify spermidine as a so-called calorie reduction mimetic. “Calorie reduction mimetics are substances that mimic the effects of fasting. The body produces them when you lose weight, but you can also take them in with food, ”explains Flöel. A number of mimetics have already been tested worldwide: for example, resveratrol, which can be obtained from grapes and therefore, among other things. can be found in red wine, or the so-called green tea extract, known as epigallocatechin gallate. "For resveratrol, we were able to demonstrate positive effects on memory performance, other groups found effects on blood flow to the brain," says Professor Flöel.
Eat healthy and fast from time to time
So is the brain super pill coming soon? "Dietary supplements can never replace a balanced diet," emphasizes the professor. Basically, it is cheap to eat a lot of fruit, vegetables and unsaturated fatty acids and to save on sugar. "It also matters how much you eat," adds Flöel. "In studies, calorie restriction, especially the appeal of fasting, led to better memory performance."
In order to prevent dementia, the S3 guideline of the German Society for Neurology (DGN) recommends keeping an eye on diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity and to counteract these risk factors medically at an early stage. Active social life, physical activity and an active and healthy lifestyle also appear to reduce the risk of illness.
For the “SmartAge” study, which is currently being carried out at the Charité in Berlin under the direction of Professor Agnes Flöel, further study participants between the ages of 60 and 90 are sought who, according to their own assessment, suffer from memory impairment and are concerned about it do. Interested parties are welcome to contact us by email at or on the phone number +49 (0) 30 450660395.