Animal study: combination of melatonin and exercise protects against Alzheimer's
Physical exercise delays the aging process in brain tissue and protects against dementia and Alzheimer's. Melatonin does – in animal studies at least – the same. You'd expect that the combined anti-aging effect of melatonin supplementation and physical exercise would therefore offer extra protection against Alzheimer's. Well, according to neuro-scientists at the Institute of Biomedical Research in Barcelona this probably is the case.
The Spanish performed experiments on 3xTg-AD mice genetically modified to develop Alzheimer's [Tg]. They used almost identical mice, but ones that had not been genetically modified [NTg] as control animals. These mice do not develop Alzheimer's.
Some of the Tg mice were given melatonin in their drinking water for six moths [Tg-M]. Another group were housed for six months in a cage with a treadmill [Tg-E]. The mice had free access to the treadmill so could run as much as they wanted.
And finally, there was a group of mice that were given melatonin and could exercise [Tg-ME].
In brain diseases such as Alzheimer's, the brain cells' ability to generate energy often diminishes. The functioning of the brain cells' mitochondria deteriorates. One of the reasons for this is a reduction in the activity of mitochondrial enzymes such as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide-ubiquinone oxidoreductase chain 6 [ND6], cytochrome c oxidase I [COXI], ubiquinol-cytochrome c reductase complex core protein 2 [Core2] andadenosine triphosphate synthase subunit alpha [CV-alpha].
After six months the researchers observed that both exercise and melatonin had lessened the decrease in the enzymes' functioning. And the combination of exercise and melatonin worked even better.
After six months the researchers got the mice to swim on two consecutive days in an aquarium where a small platform had been hidden just below the water surface. The animals in the combined group [Tg-ME] learned the way to the platform the quickest.
"Antiaging therapies and healthy lifestyle options such as melatonin administration and physical exercise showed a noticeable potential to increase cognitive reserve and bodily resistance to Alzheimer disease related changes", the researchers write. "In 12-month-old 3xTg-AD mice, they induced partially different survival and neuroprotection pathways that resulted in some additive or synergistic neuroprotective effects when the 2 treatments were combined."
"The study was initiated at 6 months of age when 3xTg-AD mice are in a stage of moderate pathology."
"Similarly to the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) EPIC-Norfolk prospective population study, where the combination of physical exercise plus another 3 healthy lifestyle options predicted a 4-fold difference in total mortality [PLoS Med. 2008 Jan 8; 5(1): e12.], these combined treatments may significantly alleviate Alzheimer disease incidence in the population."
Neurobiol Aging. 2012 Jun;33(6):1124.e13-29.
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