The word “Lipofuscin” looks funny, but its effects in the body are no laughing matter.
Lipofuscin is strongly implicated in Alzheimer’s Disease, memory loss and impaired learning ability. It is commonly known as age pigment and is responsible for age spots (aka “liver spots”) on the skin. Besides the skin, it also accumulates in organs and nerve cells. Although this sticky, caramel-like substance affects more than one part of the body, today I’d like to focus on its effects on the brain.
Before we get to that, it is helpful to know how this substance comes about and the overall negative effects from it.
Where It Comes From
Current research indicates Lipofuscin is created by free radical damage. 50% of its components are directly related to fat oxidation. The remaining components are cross-linked proteins (30%) and other residues from metabolism (20%). It especially accumulates inside of cells.
All of this means that cellular oxidation is a primary cause of Lipofuscin. Although we need oxidation reactions in the body to create energy, in the process free radicals are left behind. With too many free radicals you have oxidative stress, causing cell damage.
Free radicals come from numerous sources, including natural energy production in the body. Among external sources, the following influences stimulate production of free radicals:
- Drinking alcohol
- Eating simple sugars (fructose, glucose and sucrose)
- Eating foods containing rancid fats
- Exposure to microwaves & radiation
- Heavy metals in the body (aluminum, cadmium, lead & mercury)
Negative Effects on Health
The negative effects of Lipofuscin come from the fact that it blocks normal cellular function. You can think of it like sticky caramel that gums up the normal workings of the body.
General health problems directly influenced by Lipofuscin include accelerated aging, impaired heart function, macular degeneration, liver disease, and muscle and joint pain.
In the brain, the accumulation of Lipofuscin interferes with nerve impulses and excess accumulation can even kill nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
What Can Be Done To Slow or Reverse Lipofuscin Formation in the Brain?
Decrease Foods that Create Additional Oxidation: Excessive amounts of specific nutrients that trigger oxidative stress in the body will disable or overwhelm your body’s natural antioxidant protection system.
One of the primary culprits for this is excessive amounts of Omega-6 Fatty Acids. We need Omega-6 in our diet, but too much is a problem. Omega-6 is much higher in highly processed foods than in foods raised and served in a more natural state.
Here are a list of foods that create additional oxidation when eaten in large amounts. The oils and grains are particularly high in Omega-6 Fatty Acids:
Eat Whole Fresh Foods In Their Natural State: The more processed your food is, the more difficult it is for your body to use effectively. Over time this will lead to health problems as your body loses the ability to compensate. This results in chronic disease, particularly the signs of ‘old age.’ As you’ve read, these include symptoms related to Lipofuscin in the brain.
Take Brain-Friendly Supplements: Antioxidants and certain other nutrients are specifically helpful for lowering Lipofuscin levels and helping remove it from the brain. These include:
Getting older isn’t really the problem when you consider that the alternative is death. The real problem is feeling older. By following a healthier lifestyle you’ll reduce the symptoms you already experience and go a long way towards eliminating future problems such as Alzheimer’s Disease and other brain problems of aging.
Calvani, M., et al. Action of acetyl-L-carnitine in neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s disease. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (USA). 663:483-486, 1993.
Arivazhagan, P., et al. Alpha-lipoic acid increases Na+K+ATPase activity and reduces lipofuscin accumulation in discrete brain regions of aged rats. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1019:350-354, 2004.