Early symptoms of the degenerative disease include trouble remembering, concentrating or making decisions that affect everyday life. Alzheimer’s disease can cause considerable disruption to a person’s day-to-day life, threatening their independence and livelihood. A new study, however, has found that the eye may signal onset of the illness, as early formation of amyloid plaque may show in the retina.
Amyloid plaque, the toxic protein deposits found between brain cells, are one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
As efforts grow to find a cure for the debilitating condition, the focal point remains largely on the prevention of amyloid formation.
The study, led by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, found that amyloid deposits may occur in the retina of the eye in patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
The analysis compared tests of retinal and brain amyloid in patients.
They observed that the presence of retinal spots in the eyes correlated with brain scans showing high levels of cerebral amyloid.
The team believe this revelation should be used as a biomarker for detecting early-stage AD risk.
Senior author of the study, Robert Rissman, PhD, said: “This was a small initial dataset from the screening visit.
It involved eight patients.“But these findings are encouraging because they suggest it may be possible to determine the onset, spread and morphology of Alzheimer’s disease using retinal imaging rather than more difficult and costly brain scans.
“We look forward to seeing the results of additional timepoint retinal scans and the impact of solanezumab (a monoclonal antibody) on retinal imaging.
“Unfortunately we will need to wait to see and analyse these data when the A4 trial is completed.”
How to prevent amyloid formation?
Studies have found that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids could help prevent neurodegenerative illnesses.
There is growing evidence showing these healthy fats may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by reducing amyloid plaques.
Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, seaweed and sardines.
A recent study also found that eating foods rich in antioxidants called flavonoids can significantly reduce the risk of the illness.
Flavonoids are a group of metabolites thought to provide health benefits through cells signalling pathways and antioxidant effects.
Doctor Walter Will, of Harvard University, explained: “There is mounting evidence suggesting flavonoids are powerhouses when it comes to preventing your thinking skills from declining as you get older.
“While it is possible other phytochemicals are at work here, a colourful diet rich in flavonoids and specifically flavones and anthocyanins.”
Conversely, alzheimers.net warns that white foods, including pasta, cakes, white sugar, white rice may induce amyloid formation.
This is due to the fact that these foods can trigger a spike in insulin, which sends toxins to the brain. Furthermore, microwave popcorn contains diacetyl, a chemical that may increase amyloid plaques in the brain.