A dietary supplement containing a blend of thirty vitamins and minerals -- all natural ingredients widely available in health food stores -- has shown remarkable anti-aging properties that can prevent and even reverse massive brain cell loss, according to new research from McMaster University.
Early tests of the formula, which contains common ingredients such as vitamins B, C and D, folic acid, green tea extract, cod liver oil, have been 'dramatic,' scientists say.
They believe it could someday slow the progress of catastrophic neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
A series of studies published over the last decade and a half have shown its benefits in mice. In the latest study, those used had widespread loss of more than half their brain cells, severely impacting multiple regions of the brain by one year of age - the human equivalent of severe Alzheimer's disease. But after being fed the supplement on small pieces of bagel each day over the course of several months, their improvement was remarkable. Over time, it completely eliminated the severe brain cell loss and abolished cognitive decline.
In addition to looking at the major markers of ageing, the supplement also boosted the animals' vision, balance and motor activity. It even improved their sense of smell, the loss of which is often associated with neurological disease.
Scientists hope the cocktail of nutrients may prevent and even reverse neuron loss in patients - halting catastrophic conditions such as Alzheimer's, motor neurone disease and Parkinson's.
Professor Jennifer Lemon, of McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, and lead author of the study said: 'The findings are dramatic. 'Our hope is this supplement could offset some very serious illnesses and ultimately improve quality of life.'
The idea is over-the-counter supplements might be able to stave off old age by turning ingredients commonly available in shops into an all in one pill.
Professor Lemon said: 'The research suggests there is tremendous potential with this supplement to help people who are suffering from some catastrophic neurological diseases. 'We know this because mice experience the same basic cell mechanisms that contribute to neuro-degeneration that humans do. All species, in fact. There is a commonality among us all.'
By the time regular mice reach 22 months of age, the equivalent of 70 or 80 in human years, they experience a 50 per cent decline in movement and become hunchbacked, arthritic and thin.
In a previous study, mice on the daily supplement carried on in their cages as if they were still teenagers - or at least 20-somethings - rather than being frail and elderly.
Analysis found the supplements were actually affecting the mitochondria, the power plants of cells. With the cocktail supplement, the mitochondria produced fewer 'free radicals', which are believed to be the cause of ageing.
In other tests on crickets, one naturally expected to live about 120 days lasted 257 - more than twice as long - by way of dietary restrictions and the supplement.
The next step is to test the supplement on humans to check for any side effects. This is likely to happen within the next two years, and will first be given to those already suffering from neuro-degenerative diseases.
The study is published online in the journal Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis.