Toward prevention of Alzheimers disease--potential nutraceutical strategies for suppressing the production of amyloid beta peptides

Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(4):682-97. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2006.04.067. Epub 2006 Jul 7.


Alzheimers disease (AD) can be viewed as a vicious cycle in which excess production and deposition of amyloid beta (Abeta) peptides promote microglial activation, and the resultant production of inflammatory mediators further boosts Abeta production while inducing death and dysfunction of neurons. Abeta production is mediated by beta- and gamma-secretase activities; it is prevented by alpha-secretase activity, and insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE) catabolizes Abeta. High cellular cholesterol content increases Abeta synthesis by boosting beta-secretase activity; inhibition of cholesterol syntheses and/or stimulation of cholesterol export thus diminishes Abeta production. PPARgamma activity decreases Abeta production by promoting harmless catabolism of amyloid precursor protein while blocking the up-regulatory impact of cytokines on beta-secretase expression. Nitric oxide produced by the healthy cerebral microvasculature can suppress Abeta production by boosting expression of alpha-secretase while suppressing that of beta-secretase; conversely, cerebral ischemia provokes increased APP expression. Good insulin sensitivity and efficient brain insulin function protect by inhibiting gamma-secretase activity and increasing expression of IDE. The DHA provided by fish oil diminishes cerebral Abeta deposition in rodent AD models, for unclear reasons. Various measures which oppose microglial activation can inhibit up-regulation of beta-secretase and gamma-secretase by oxidants and cytokines, respectively. These considerations suggest that a number of nutraceutical or lifestyle measures may have potential for preventing or slowing AD: policosanol; 9-cis-beta-carotene; isomerized hops extract; DHA; measures which promote efficient endothelial NO generation, such as low-salt/potassium-rich diets, exercise training, high-dose folate, and flavanol-rich cocoa; chromium picolinate and cinnamon extract as aids for insulin sensitivity; and various agents which can oppose microglial activation, including vitamin D, genistein, and sesamin. The impact of these measures on Abeta production in rodent models of AD should be evaluated, with the intent of defining practical strategies for AD prevention.

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / prevention & control*
  • Amyloid Precursor Protein Secretases
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Animals
  • Brain Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Endopeptidases / chemistry
  • Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Insulysin / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • PPAR gamma / metabolism
  • Peptide Fragments / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • PPAR gamma
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Cholesterol
  • Amyloid Precursor Protein Secretases
  • Endopeptidases
  • Insulysin