Speaking a second language delays onset of dementia

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There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia.  Now a new study which was partly published in the Nov 9, 2010 issue of the journal Neurology suggests that speaking a second language may delay the onset of the neurological disorders.

Ellen Bialystok and her colleagues at York University in Toronto reported at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease was four years later in those who spoke a second language than those Alzheimer's patients who spoke only one language.

For the study, Bialystok et al. compared 450 patients who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Half of them were bilingual while another half spoke one language only.

CT brain scans showed that those who spoke two languages suffered more advanced brain deterioration than those who only spoke one language. But bilinguals could act like one-language-speaking patients with less severe cognitive impairment.

"Once the disease begins to compromise this region of the brain, bilinguals can continue to function," Bialystok said. "Bilingualism is protecting older adults, even after Alzheimer's disease is beginning to affect cognitive function."

The current study did not prove that speaking multiple languages reduce risk of dementia.  But speech and language deficiencies have been linked in previous studies to neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia.

A study of nuns published in the journal of the American Medical Association revealed that those in their 20s who wrote sentences with complex ideas were more likely to avoid dementia than those who wrote simple sentences, suggesting that language skills may be a marker for dementia.

Vitamin D deficiency, fatty diet, drinking apple juice and smoking are linked with high risk of dementia like Alzheimer's.  What may help Alzheimer's disease include healthy diet, Mediterranean diet, coffee, cinnamon extract, fish oil DHA, eating garlic, taking grape seed extract, resveratrol supplements, curry and gingkgo supplements.

A recent study published in the Feb 10 issue of Molecules and Cells suggests that eating hempseed meal (HM) may help prevent dementia like Alzheimer's disease and even cardiovascular disease.

The study led by M.J. Lee and colleagues of Konkuk  University in Seoul, Korea found intake of HM-reduces hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) toxicity significantly, suggesting HM has an antioxidant effect.

Intake of HM or linoleic acids found in hempseed was also found to mitigate Aβ42-induced eye degeneration. Aβ42 is an amyloid  beta protein that has been linked to Alzheimer's disease.

Additionally, eating HM or linoleic acids was found to reduce cholesterol uptake  significantly.

The researchers said the findings suggest that HM and linoleic acids are potential candidates for the treatment of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease and cardiovascular disease.

By David Liu, Ph.D.

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