Insufficient Thyroid Hormone Linked to Alzheimer's Disease?

Turmeric can help regulate thyroid hormone levels, which may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Areas of the brain associated with learning and memory (e.g., the hippocampus and cerebral cortex) need thyroid hormone to function properly. Low levels of thyroid hormone are found in hypothyroidism, depression, and schizophrenia. All three disorders show varying degrees of impaired learning and memory. (iv.55)

Thyroid hormone affects the production of other chemicals in the brain related to memory and learning as well. It also plays a role in energy production in brain cells. Thyroid hormone deficiency could therefore contribute to Alzheimer's disease in the following ways (which fortunately turmeric may be able to counteract): (iv.556061)

Hypothyroidism and Alzheimer's Disease

Decreased Expression of Neurogranin

How does hypothyroidism affect neurogranin levels? How do neurogranin levels affect the brain?

Answer: Research shows the following links between thyroid levels, neurogranin, and brain health:

  • Thyroid hormone regulates production of this protein, which is involved in signaling in the brain. Neurogranin is important for neuron health and learning.
  • Animal studies show that mice that don't make neurogranin perform poorly on tests that measure their ability to learn.
  • Studies show that people with schizophrenia have low levels of neurogranin in the prefrontal cortex part of the brain. Further research uncovered a gene linking neurogranin production (which is regulated by thyroid hormone) and schizophrenia.

Reduced Blood Flow and Impaired Glucose Metabolism

How does low levels of thyroid hormone impact the brain?

Answer: Research shows the following links between thyroid levels, blood flow, blood glucose levels, and brain health:

  • Imaging studies in humans demonstrate that thyroid hormone deficiency reduces blood flow and metabolism of blood sugar in the brain.
  • Thyroid hormone helps regulate mitochondrial energy production (from glucose) in brain cells. Cell energy is crucial to maintaining a healthy antioxidant balance.
  • Even mild hypothyroidism results in memory deficits.
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) shows decreased brain activity in patients with lower than normal levels of thyroid hormone.

Decreased Acetylcholine (ACh) Production

How does hypothyroidism affect neurotransmitters in the brain?

Answer: Studies show the following links between thyroid hormones and brain chemicals:

  • ACh is a neurotransmitter that is essential to learning and memory. Not having enough thyroid hormone inhibits synthesis of ACh.
  • In animal studies, supplementing with thyroid hormone improved learning ability by increasing functional ACh.

Turmeric Can Counteract Low Thyroid Hormone Effects on the Brain

Low levels of thyroid hormone from hypothyroidism reduce production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (necessary for learning and memory) in the brain. Animal and human studies indicate that turmeric can help increase thyroid hormone in those with hypothyroidism. This suggests that turmeric may be able to: (iv.5560-62)

  • Counteract the contributing effects of hypothyroidism to Alzheimer's.
  • Improve impaired brain function and cognitive abilities in hypothyroid patients with Alzheimer's disease.
Calcium-related. (iv.6061)
Biochemical substance that allows transmission of messages from the brain cells to the body. (iv.32)

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