Speaking at Healthy Ageing APAC Summit 2019, Belinda Reynolds, the director of Research, Product Development, and Emerging Markets at the Blackmores’-owned practitioner only brand, made the point above when addressing the topic of healthy brain ageing.
In Australia, cognitive disease such as Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is now the number one cause of death for women aged 65 and above.
Against this backdrop, Reynolds pointed out the need for multi-angle research, as cognitive health is affected by a variety of factors, such as omega-3 levels, gut-brain axis, and vitamin D levels etc.
For example, she pointed out that studies have also shown a relationship between omega-3 levels and brain health.
“Research has shown that in patients who have low omega-3 fatty acid status, not only do they not respond as well to the B vitamin supplementation that can be prescribed to help with preventing cognitive decline, low omega-3 fatty acid status is associated with a higher risk of a whole variety of different chronic and age-related illnesses, including cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease..”
As for the gut-brain axis, she explained that a disrupted gut microbiome and an unhealthy gut barrier can trigger inflammation – which is directly related to imbalances in neurotransmitters, in turn contributing to cognitive decline and more serious issues such as depression.
She said that some firms, such as Bened Biomedical, had successfully developed psychobiotic to modulate the microbiota-gut-brain axis.
Genes – a puzzle piece
Genetic testing has become the buzzword of today when it comes to crafting a personalised nutrition plan, she added.
While the firm itself also conducts genetic testing, Reynolds cautioned that genetic testing should not be the only method involved in cognitive health intervention.
“Because the research around genetics is still in its infancy, we are still understanding just how relevant different genes bears its power, so what we try to do is educate that genetic testing should never be the one single test given to the patients.
“Really, it should simply provide one piece of the puzzle or one part of the picture that practitioners use at any one time to design intervention,” she said.
Other important factors include understanding the patients’ lifestyles and dietary habits.
Emphasising on the need for a holistic set of solutions, she commented that “there are many contributing factors and we can’t ignore any of them if you really want to get very beneficial outcomes for patients that are experiencing mental health or cognitive decline.”
In-house formulation research
As cognitive health is affected by a plethora of factors, Reynolds advocated the need for continued investment in different research.
“We are trying to continue to invest in different studies, which help to give practitioners an understanding on how effective different combinations of nutrient approach for patients with cognitive decline.
“This can help supplement or complement the dietary and lifestyle intervention that they may have already recommended,” she said.
At present, the firm is conducting a six-month trial at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) that studies a BioCeutical cognition support formula containing Bacopa monniera, Gingko biloba, Panax ginseng, and alpha lipoic acid.
The purpose is to study its effects in older adults with subjective cognitive impairment.
She explained that that combination of ingredients was chosen as each of them aimed to address factors contributing to cognitive decline, such as helping with neurotransmitter imbalances, providing neuron protection, and assisting with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Medicinal cannabis research
The firm is also investigating the compatibility of medicinal cannabis use alongside other medications and standard therapies prescribed for brain cancer patients.
This is based on the present understanding that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and other components in cannabis can address imbalances in the body by interacting with the human endocannabinoid system and the receptors throughout the central nervous system and immune system.
The study also aims to find out whether medicinal cannabis use can alleviate side effects of cancer medications, such as improving sleep, reducing pain, and alleviating feelings of nausea.
In the ongoing study, the patients are divided into two groups, with one group consuming a four-to-one ratio of THC to CBD and the other consuming a one-to-one ratio of THC to CBD.
A whole plant extract is used to ensure that it has all the beneficial constituents from the cannabis working together.
“It is incredibly promising that we are starting to understand these diseases that we previously thought that there was really no hope for. We need to continue to educate practitioners and consumers on how we can best approach these issues,” she concluded.