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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

is immunization the future of Alzheimer's disease treatment

Is immunization the future of Alzheimer’s disease treatment?

By Dr Hasan Mohajeri, Principal Scientist and Head of Biological Models Competence Cluster & Neurosciences, DSM Nutritional Products

  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia
  • Research has been carried out to understand the potential role of immunization in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease
  • Initial human trials have shown positive signs, but more research is needed to ensure safety of patients
  • Nutritional interventions provide a safe and effective option for supporting brain health

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, and is expected to affect 131.5 million by 2050. [1],[2] With this in mind, it’s clear to see why so much research is being carried out to help prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer’s disease.

From mice to men – immunization trials for Alzheimer’s

Many scientists believe there is a link between the immune system and Alzheimer’s disease, with the idea being that careful manipulation of the immune system may help improve the success of treatment.[3] At the end of the last century, a vaccination study on mice was published, indicating that active immunization could reduce amyloid deposits in transgenic mice. Studies have shown Alzheimer’s disease is associated with overproduction and buildup of amyloid-beta (Aβ) and its faulty removal from the brain. This research has led to human studies, in the hopes of finding prevention of, or treatment for, Alzheimer’s disease with Aβ-reducing therapy.[4]

Human studies have been initiated, in people already suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, to determine whether immunization could prevent or reverse the effects of the condition. While some studies did report positive results, including some amyloid removal and better cognitive scores, there were also adverse autoimmune reactions in many patients, including microhemorrhages and increased vascular amyloid deposition.[5] While progress continues to be made in this area, immunization therapies do not yet provide a solution.

A holistic approach to brain health

So, what can be done to help fight Alzheimer’s disease and support cognitive health?

One of the major challenges in managing progressive cognitive disease, is the difficulty in delaying neuronal loss, once the pathological events leading to neuronal death have started. Therefore, implementing a long-term strategy to maintain a healthy brain is an advisable option. With extensive research that supports the role of key nutrients in neuron health, nutritional intervention presents an alternative approach that could help support brain health.[6]  

In addition to helping manage the negative effects of progressive cognitive disease, research shows certain nutrients may help more broadly to maintain physiological brain functions and support brain health. For example, B vitamins have EFSA claims for their role in supporting normal mental performance and psychological function, as well as reducing fatigue. Research also supports vitamin C’s antioxidant properties, in helping protect neurons from oxidative stress.

EPA and DHA are two important long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) which also support cognitive health, including improving mood and memory.[7][8] The below video from the Global Organization for EPA and DHA omega-3s (GOED) explains the importance of DHA throughout a person’s lifetime.


For more information on brain health, including the latest research into the potential role of nutrition in brain health, download our whitepaper ‘Empower your mind: Scientific evidence and nutritional solutions to support brain health throughout life’ here.


[1] Alzheimer’s Research UK, ‘What is Alzheimer’s? disease’, 2015, (accessed 18 July 2017)

[2] Alzheimer’s Disease International, ‘Dementia statistics’, 2017, (accessed 18 July 2017)

[3] L. St-Amour et al ‘Immunotherapies in Alzheimer's disease: Too much, too little, too late or off-target?’ Acta Neuropathol. 2016 Apr;131(4):481-504. doi: 10.1007/s00401-015-1518-9. Epub 2015 Dec 21. (accessed 18 July 2017)

[4] Rosenberg et al ‘Genomics of Alzheimer Disease: A Review.’ JAMA Neurol. 2016 Jul 1;73(7):867-74. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2016.0301. (accessed 18 July 2017)

[5] P.Novak et al ‘Safety and immunogenicity of the tau vaccine AADvac1 in patients with Alzheimer's disease: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 1 trial.’ Lancet Neurol. 2017 Feb;16(2):123-134. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(16)30331-3. Epub 2016 Dec 10. (accessed 18 July 2017)

[6] Mohajeri et al., ‘Inadequate supply of vitamins and DHA in the elderly: Implications for brain aging and Alzheimer-type dementia’ Nutrition, 2015 Feb;31(2):261-75. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2014.06.016

[7] K. Yurko-Mauro et al, ‘Docosahexaenoic acid and adult memory: a systematic review and meta analysis’, PLoS One, vol.10, no. 3, 2015.

[8] R. Mocking et al., ‘Meta-analysis and metaregression of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for major depressive disorder’, Transl Psychiatry, vol. 15, no. 6, 2016.