Higher blood levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) appear to protect against Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other types of dementia, that is the result of a study is published in JAMA Neurology this past month by Sudha Seshadri, M.D., a professor of neurology at Boston University and his colleagues.
BDNF is “growth hormone” for the brain. It enhances the creation of connections between brain cells (neurons), and it is reduced in depression, stress, and dementia.
The researchers found that there was a big correlation between BDNF levels and the risk of dementia. Those people whose BDNF levels placed them in the lowest 20% of all subjects had more than double the risk of dementia compared to people in the top 20%.
Aside from treating depression, what can increase BDNF levels? Lithium, long used to treat bipolar disorder, has been found to increase BDNF levels in people with bipolar and some people with dementia. In fact, lithium might also be of some help in preventing dementia. One study in the May 2012 Drugs and Aging supports this idea.
It is also possible that giving BDNF to older people might prevent or counter AD symptoms. The author of this study, Sudha Seshadri, says, “We need to study the benefits and potential side effects of giving BDNF to people.”
For now that isn’t possible, but there is research on ways of increasing BDNF pharmacologically (other than with lithium).
For more on BDNF read these articles on our website –