Scientists have recently discovered a link between a toxic protein in the blood, known as A-beta, and Alzheimer’s Disease. The liver is the main organ that clears toxins from the body including the toxic A-beta so they concluded that improving liver detox could play an important part in preventing Alzheimer’s, one of the most common forms of dementia.
Alzheimer’s Disease which causes progressive memory loss is the fourth leading cause of death in America where 3 million people over 65 are affected. In the UK it is estimated that the condition affects over 400,000 with 1 in 100 people at risk of developing it. Researchers do not yet know the exact cause of the disease but have discovered that the brain cells (neurons) of sufferers have been replaced with plaque containing amyloid proteins (A-beta).
Liver Detoxification and Alzheimer’s
The liver has two main phases of detox known as Phase 1 and Phase 2. Previous studies have shown that patient’s with Alzheimer’s disease have a problem with one of the Phase 2 detox pathways that involves sulfur (sulphur), This detox pathway known as sulfation (sulphation), like the others, makes toxins easier for the body to get rid of through the urine and sometimes the bile.
Impaired sulfation (sulphation) has also been linked with other diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, motor neurone disease, food and chemical sensitivity, autism and rheumatoid arthritis.
The liver uses this particular pathway for detoxifying food additives, environmental toxins, bacterial bowel toxins, certain drugs like acetaminophen (paracetamol) as well as normal body chemicals such as the hormone estrogen and thyroid hormone so they don’t build up and cause damage. It is also the major route for the detox of neurotransmitters (natural brain chemicals) which could otherwise contribute to some neurological problems.
Where does sulfur come from?
The liver gets the sulfate (sulphate) mainly from the amino acid cysteine but can also make it from the amino acid methionine. Both come from protein such as eggs, fish, poultry and meat in the diet. Vegetable sources of sulfur (sulphur) include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, radishes, turnips, onions, garlic, red peppers, watercress, kale, and beans.
The conversion relies on a process that needs the mineral molybdenum to function although too much can inhibit it as can doses of B6 over 100mg a day. Beans and whole grains are good rich sources of Molybdenum.
People with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Motor Neurone Disease have a problem converting cysteine to sulfate (sulphate) leading to a build up of cysteine in the blood. Taking supplements with cysteine may worsen the symptoms and they have to obtain sulfate (sulphate) from supplements of sodium sulfate or magnesium sulfate to bypass the block.
Another Phase 2 pathway called glucoronidation becomes important when sulfation is poor. This pathway can be enhanced with cruciferous vegetables or the spice curcumin.
When the liver does not detoxify as well as it should toxic substances build up in the blood and are eventually stored in the fatty tissues including the nervous system and brain which is 60 – 70 % fat. They can be slowly released traveling to other parts of the body contributing to other diseases.
The importance of Antioxidants in Liver Detox
Phase 1 liver detox involves a family of enzymes called cytochrome P450. Scientists have discovered that this system is found in other parts of the body especially the brain. The activity of the P450 enzymes to transform toxins to forms that the body can more easily eliminate results in a lot of free radical formation which damage cells. The brains of Alzheimer’s patients have an increased rate of nerve cell damage so a good supply of antioxidants from the diet and supplements are important.
Grape Seed Extract
Animal studies with the antioxidant grape seed extract show that it may help to prevent amyloid plaque tangles from forming in the first place. There is plenty of research on the benefits of antioxidants from fruit protecting against free radicals that contribute to loss of cognitive function.
The activity of the enzymes in Phase 1 decreases with age and lack of physical activity. Circulation problems contribute to poor blood circulation to the liver that it needs for proper detox function.
Silymarin the Liver Protector
There has been an impressive amount ot research on the effects of Silymarin, a flavanoid extracted from the plant Milk Thistle, on liver detox function. It acts as both as a potent antioxidant and a stimulator of glutathione, an important substance used for detox. It protects the liver from the toxic effects of chemicals and drugs and can even regenerate liver cells.
Liver Detox Function Tests
Tests to see how well your liver is detoxifying have been available from specialized laboratories for over 15 years although their use is rare in mainstream medicine. The standard liver function tests only detect raised enzymes as result of damage to liver cells and cannot tell if you have any problems in your liver detox pathways.
There has to be a balance between the activity of Phase 1 liver detox and Phase 2 or toxins will build up causing damage. Researchers have discovered which substances improve or inhibit the various routes so tests are very valuable in identifying which phase or particular pathway needs more support.
You can get tests done through laboratories such as Metametrix Clinical Laboratories, Genova Diagnostics or Genova Diagnostics Europe. To find a practitioner in your area that can help you just contact these labs.
You can find out more about about liver detox on this blog in my article
How a Liver Detox Diet Can Restore Your health.
and in my ebook The Definitive Detox Diet.