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Can a Hormone Actually Help Prevent Alzheimer's?

A recent study has found that an appetite hormone called leptin may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and boost brain volume.

Leptin is a hormone that is released by your fat cells. The hormone was discovered in 1995 and was tested as a weight loss tonic. When the hormone was injected in mice, they lost weight. Among humans, however, leptin only temporarily helps you lose weight and injections are costly and tedious.

However, researchers from Boston University found that leptin may provide cognitive benefits that were initially overlooked. The study was published in the December 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from a huge study called the Framingham Heart Study which began back in 1948.

The researchers took a representative pool of 785 individuals from the Framingham Study who displayed no signs of dementia in the years 1990 to 1994.

After an average of 8 years of follow-up, 111 of the participants developed dementia and 89 were diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

The researchers found that participants with the lowest leptin levels at the beginning of the study had a 25% risk of developing Alzheimer's whereas people with the highest levels had only a 6% risk.

The researchers also conducted brain scans on 200 of the participants and found that higher leptin levels were associated with more brain volume in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the main memory center of the brain and decreases in volume are closely linked to Alzheimer's and dementia.

While leptin appears to have promise as an aid in the prevention of Alzheimer's, research is still in its early stages.

Alzheimer's is becoming an epidemic as the world population continues to age. The mind robbing disease already affects over 26 million people worldwide and is estimated to cost the US alone over 100 billion dollars annually.

Further research will help determine if leptin is a safe and effective way to help prevent Alzheimer's, but in the meantime there are a number of things that can be done to significantly lower your risk.

Here are some good ways to avoid cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer's:

Eat a brain-healthy diet such as foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Keep your mind active by attending social events or solving puzzles.

Do moderate intensity exercises like walking, biking or yoga 3 times a week

Sleep regularly and restfully

Learn to relax

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