Toxic iron levels, brain inflammation, and the death of brain cells lead to dementia-related diseases. CBD May help with those.
First, a few sobering statistics on Alzheimer’s Disease. Between 2000 and 2015, the number of deaths linked to Alzheimer’s Disease increased over a hundred percent. It is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Today, 5.7 million Americans are living with the disease, but as the demographic shifts to an aging population, these numbers will triple by 2050. In other words, it’s a race against time to find an effective treatment, and hopefully, a cure. One of the newest treatment targets for Alzheimer’s Disease is the associated increase in toxic iron levels.
Accordingly, a new line of research is investigating how cannabidiol (CBD) may help prevent the build-up of metals, including toxic iron levels, in the brain. Several animal studies to date have pursued this theory, with surprisingly positive initial results.
Iron Contributes to Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
As we age, our bodies slow down, and we increasingly have problems eliminating excess minerals. At appropriate levels, minerals are the building blocks for life. Iron is an essential mineral needed for the production of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin. Iron is also involved in mitochondrial functioning in the production of cellular energy.
Toxic iron levels lead to significant health issues, including liver and heart disease, diabetes, and dementia. When it comes to neurodegenerative disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers routinely find higher than normal iron levels in autopsies. This iron toxicity seems to kick up during the progression of the disease as it enters into the final stages.
Iron accumulating in the brain negatively impacts communication between neuronal cells. We already know that high iron levels disrupt DNA patterns, increase the presence of free radicals, and cause increases in inflammation and cell death.
How CBD May Fight Iron Build Up In the Brain
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most popular (and populous) cannabinoid sourced from cannabis. It is well tolerated and non intoxicating. Research from nearly a decade ago kicked off the current frenzy of investigation into CBD for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
In this research, from 2013 in Molecular Biology, Brazilian researchers found evidence (in lab rats) that CBD protected against iron-related cell death. First, they fed rats a diet high in excess iron. The rats responded by creating high levels of specific proteins (dynamin-1-like and caspase 3) responsible for cell death. 1)da Silva, V.K., de Freitas, B.S., da Silva Dornelles, A. et al. Cannabidiol Normalizes Caspase 3, Synaptophysin, and Mitochondrial Fission Protein DNM1L Expression Levels in Rats with Brain Iron Overload: Implications for Neuroprotection. Mol Neurobiol 49, 222–233 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12035-013-8514-7
But, when treated with a small dose of CBD, dangerously high protein levels returned to normal. Accordingly, the authors concluded that CBD could offer a new therapeutic avenue in the protection against iron-related apoptosis.
Improving the Body’s Ability to Expel Iron
Moreover, a second study, by members of the same research team, pursued this line of research into CBD for toxic iron levels. Published in 2018 in Translational Psychiatry, this study worked with rats fed iron carbonyl (30 mg/kg) to spike their iron levels. When the rats were two weeks into adulthood, the researchers treated one group with CBD (10 mg/kg). The results confirmed their earlier work, that CBD affectively reversed the issues triggered by the toxic iron levels. According to the study abstract, “The reversal of iron-induced effects by CBD indicates that it has neuroprotective potential through its anti-apoptotic action.” 2)da Silva, V. K., de Freitas, B. S., Garcia, R., Monteiro, R. T., Hallak, J. E., Zuardi, A. W., Crippa, J., & Schröder, N. (2018). Antiapoptotic effects of cannabidiol in an experimental model of cognitive decline induced by brain iron overload. Translational psychiatry, 8(1), 176. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-018-0232-5
While CBD doesn’t directly reduce toxic iron levels, this research strongly suggests it does help the body improve iron elimination, even at high levels of mineral toxicity.
CBD Is Also a Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Agent
Another route through which CBD might further slow down dementia is through its powerful anti-inflammatory characteristics. Neurological inflammation is one of the major symptoms of dementia, but one which has proven especially challenging to fight. CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties are already well established in multiple disease models.
As per a review from 2009, “Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs,” cannabinoids suppress inflammation in a variety of diseases. For example, “cannabinoids are useful in treating [Multiple Sclerosis] because they have neuroprotective as well as immunosuppressive properties.” 3)Nagarkatti, P., Pandey, R., Rieder, S. A., Hegde, V. L., & Nagarkatti, M. (2009). Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future medicinal chemistry, 1(7), 1333–1349. https://doi.org/10.4155/fmc.09.93
In particular, CBD may hold immunosuppressant properties for astrocytes, which make up seventy percent of the central nervous system. During the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, astrocytes go into an overly active inflammatory state through the secretion of cytokines, chemokines, and nitric oxide. CBD, it turns out, helps inhibit the secretion of these inflammatory substances, and therefore reduces inflammation.
CBD for Toxic Iron Levels and Neuroinflammation?
Early in-vivo and in-vitro research are laying the case for CBD’s future in the treatment of neurodegenerative disease. This nonintoxicating cannabinoid seems to improve the body’s own ability to flush out toxic iron levels, and inhibit the secretion of inflammatory compounds in the central nervous system. So, it’s not that far of a stretch to see CBD as a novel new drug that could fight the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Given more time, research, and investment, CBD may finally find itself headed to clinical trial for the treatment of dementia and related conditions.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||da Silva, V.K., de Freitas, B.S., da Silva Dornelles, A. et al. Cannabidiol Normalizes Caspase 3, Synaptophysin, and Mitochondrial Fission Protein DNM1L Expression Levels in Rats with Brain Iron Overload: Implications for Neuroprotection. Mol Neurobiol 49, 222–233 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12035-013-8514-7|
|2.||↑||da Silva, V. K., de Freitas, B. S., Garcia, R., Monteiro, R. T., Hallak, J. E., Zuardi, A. W., Crippa, J., & Schröder, N. (2018). Antiapoptotic effects of cannabidiol in an experimental model of cognitive decline induced by brain iron overload. Translational psychiatry, 8(1), 176. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-018-0232-5|
|3.||↑||Nagarkatti, P., Pandey, R., Rieder, S. A., Hegde, V. L., & Nagarkatti, M. (2009). Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future medicinal chemistry, 1(7), 1333–1349. https://doi.org/10.4155/fmc.09.93|