lab mouse, mice on aspirin

Could humble aspirin help prevent Alzheimer disease? Research in genetically modified mice on aspirin suggests that the answer might be yes (Journal of Neuroscience, July, 2018).

How Scientists Studied Mice on Aspirin:

These mice easily develop plaques in the brain that mimic Alzheimer’s disease. When the mice were given low doses of aspirin, they developed less amyloid plaque.

The experiment demonstrated that aspirin increased the activity of a protein that helps the brain get rid of waste. In addition, lysosomes that are also essential for waste removal became more active in the mice on aspirin.

People are not mice, and research in mice should be considered preliminary. On the other hand, epidemiological research suggests that low-dose aspirin might protect patients at high risk for dementia, such as those with type 2 diabetes. Results from 16 studies with more than 200,000 participants suggest that those taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) were less likely to develop Alzheimer disease (Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, March 28, 2018). Scientists consider aspirin an NSAID although it differs from them in a few ways. The most notable is that aspirin has cardiovascular benefits, while other NSAIDs increase cardiovascular risk.

Cardiovascular Benefits of Aspirin:

The lowly aspirin has been around for more than 100 years, but scientists continue to debate its benefits and risks. An analysis of nine randomized, controlled trials involving more than 100,000 participants found that aspirin reduces the risk of cardiovascular complications and death (American Journal of Medicine, July, 2011).

Despite this good news, aspirin appears to increase the risk of bleeding strokes and bleeding ulcers. Weighing the benefits against such risks suggests that no one should embark on long-term aspirin therapy without medical supervision. That would be true whether one were taking it for preventing heart attacks and strokes or for reducing the chance of developing dementia.

How Much Aspirin Might Make a Difference?

Few studies have examined the possibility that aspirin could help anyone, mouse or man, avoid Alzheimer disease. A retrospective population-based (epidemiological) study in Taiwan found that people taking low-dose aspirin had a lower chance of an Alzheimer diagnosis during the eight years (Journal of Diabetes Research, Oct. 27, 2016). The individuals in this study had type 2 diabetes, which increased their likelihood of cognitive difficulties (Experimental Gerontology, Sep. 2003). The investigators found that the appropriate daily dose was around 40 mg of aspirin. That is roughly half the lowest dose available in the US (81 mg). We don’t know whether taking an 81 mg aspirin pill every other day would offer protection similar to that observed in Taiwan.

A Canadian study identified two simple tests that can identify people at risk for dementia (American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, Nov. 2016). One is a test that asks people to copy pentagons. The other is a written subtest of the commonly-used Mini Mental State Examination. People taking aspirin or other salicylates were less likely to be diagnosed with dementia, even if they scored low on these two tests. This research also hints that aspirin may help protect people from Alzheimer disease.

Learn More:

There are many other factors that might prove protective. As a result, you may be interested in listening to our latest interview with Dr. Dale Bredesen, Professor of Neurology at UCLA. It is Show 1092: How Can You Overcome Alzheimer Disease?

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  1. Renee

    I have tried curcumin for pain and inflammation, and it works nowhere nearly as well as aspirin. I have tried many alternative/natural remedies. I don’t have much success with any of them. And still I keep trying, because I do realize that pharmaceuticals are not exactly safe. But sometimes the pharmaceuticals work. And as I said, my experience most of the time is that the natural methods don’t.

  2. thai

    Joe and Terry, would you please share your thoughts on what Howard from Florida has to say, above, about Dr. Bredesen’s views on the negative effects aspirin has on our bodies? This is critical information, if true. Thanks very much from someone who’s taken aspirin for decades.

  3. Jerry
    La Habra, CA

    Aspirin may be good for you, but over-using it, is not. Taking large doses for years is likely to ruin kidneys.

  4. Bill P.
    Downey, Ca.

    One caveat I would stress when taking aspirin. Neve take aspirin on an empty stomach.

    I have been taking an aspirin daily for over 30 years. I am 88 and never had a stomach problem.

  5. Ellen

    I’m more convince now than ever that a daily baby aspirin, either 40 mg or 81 mg may protect me from Dementia, Alzheimer, Heart attack, Stroke, Colon cancer, Type 2 diabetes! However, aspirin will cause stomach bleeding in some people!

    My now retired cardiologist put me on daily baby aspirin regimen many years ago, but the new, younger, cardiologist is against it. He is more concerned about the risk of bleeding! So far I have no problems with bleeding that I know about!

  6. Kent

    Lowly aspirin? For your future reference, it is a miracle drug! I got a kick out of those killer drugs like Celebrex et al which were said to be as good as aspirin with less side effects except death.

  7. Karen C
    North Carolina

    Perhaps determining the mechanism of aspirin (anti-inflammatory? or antioxidant?) and finding another source of the benefit without the negative side effects would be a better solution.

  8. Howard

    If anyone is considering aspirin for Alzheimer’s prevention, they should first read Dr. Dale Bredesen’s book. He discusses how aspirin is one of the chemicals that damages both our mitochondria and our gut lining, which needs to be healthy so we can absorb the nutrients that can help prevent Alzheimer’s and many other diseases.

    Dr. Bredesen incorporated quite a few natural supplements in his reversal of dementia and Alzheimer’s, including curcumin, which has the pain and anti-inflammatory benefits of aspirin without its side effects. Unlike aspirin, curcumin inhibits the COX-2 enzyme without also inhibiting the COX-1 enzyme that aspirin inhibits–COX-1 protects the gut lining and blood vessels from excessive bleeding.

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