Are you starting to have trouble recalling names, dates or words you’ve had no problem remembering in the past? Can’t find your keys or remember where you parked your car? There’s no need to worry. Occasional lapses like forgetting a name or misplacing your keys are a normal part of life. But when things progress to the point where you can’t remember the names of family members or you start to put things away in odd places, like stashing your keys in the freezer, then that may be a sign of a more serious memory issue.
One of the biggest fears we all share is that declining memory means we’re on our way to developing cognitive decline, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. And there are reasons to be concerned. Estimates are that by 2050 these problems could affect 51% of those over the age of 65. It’s a disease that’s eclipsed only by cancer and cardiovascular disease in the number of deaths it causes, with women being affected more than men.
But no matter what you’ve been led to believe, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and cognitive decline are not a normal part of ageing, and they are preventable. For example, strong evidence suggests that oestrogen for women, testosterone for men, the mineral lithium and turmeric could all help prevent Alzheimer’s (see Nutrition & Healing, November 2008). In addition, animal experiments have demonstrated that niacinamide may be able to partially reverse some of the brain cell pathology seen in Alzheimer’s disease (see Nutrition & Healing, April 2009).
Plan to reverse Alzheimer’s naturally is revealed!
While prevention is always best of course, effective treatment for those who are already suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline is desperately needed as well. Despite the medical authorities ‘approval’ of various patent medicines to treat Alzheimer’s disease, none are very effective. But just last year, Dr. Dale Bredesen, a Professor of Neurology and Director of the Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research at the University of California, Los Angeles, and founding President and CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, reported an enormous breakthrough, an effective therapy with the potential to reverse cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease using an entirely natural approach! The programme combines a number of techniques that natural medicine practitioners have been recommending for years – and in some cases even decades!
However, Dr. Bredesen is the first to put them all together into the comprehensive programme that is summarised later in this article. He wrote at the conclusion of his report: “Of the first ten patients who used this programme, including patients with memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease, amnesic mild cognitive impairment, or subjective cognitive impairment, nine showed subjective or objective improvements. One potentially important outcome is that all six of the patients whose cognitive decline had a major impact on job performance were able to return to work or continue working without difficulty.”2
Spotting the phases of cognitive decline
Cognitive decline is a progressive disorder, sometimes beginning as early as 20 years before a patient finally gets a formal diagnosis. There are a number of recognizable phases. Although interpretations differ, there are generally seven phases in what is called the Global Deterioration Scale.3
The early stage of cognitive decline may simply involve your own interpretation of how well your memory is working, or what would be formally called subjective cognitive impairment. There’s usually minimal disruption to the activities of daily living at this stage, but you may sense that your mind is not as sharp as it once was.
Those studying memory disorders are focusing attention on this stage, as it may actually be the earliest we can spot a problem and a good predictor of things getting worse. When 531 participants enrolled in the Biologically Resilient Adults in Neurological Studies (BRAiNS) programme were assessed for subjective memory complaints (SMC), those who reported changes in memory were more likely to develop impairment than those who didn’t report changes. The average length of time of progression to more serious cognitive impairment was 12.1 years. Autopsies of the brains of those who had subjective memory complaints were more likely to show evidence of changes in brain pathology even if the person didn’t have impairment while living.4
Catching it early could be key
As the disorder progresses, there are more frequent episodes of forgetfulness and confusion during what is described as mild cognitive impairment.5 While this stage is believed to be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, it’s not always progressive and a person can remain in this stage for a long time. Additional symptoms of memory loss occur over time, resulting in the diagnosis of mild, moderate or late stage/severe Alzheimer’s disease.6
It’s the window of time between subjective cognitive impairment and the more progressive forms of the disease that provide the best opportunity for slowing or reversing cognitive decline. So this, naturally, is where many researchers are focusing their attention.
While we still don’t understand exactly how and why Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia develop, there are several theories.
Focusing on plaques and tangles
The most popular working theory is that symptoms related to memory loss are a result of nerve damage from specific proteins that accumulate in abnormal ways in the brain. These markers, known as beta-amyloid (what we think of as plaque) and tau protein (what we think of as neurofibrillary tangles), are seen in higher amounts in those with cognitive decline.7 How these normal proteins develop into abnormal deposits is not known.
Up until now, most research has focused on the neurotoxic effects of beta amyloid in the development of cognitive decline. One recent animal study has asserted, however, that it’s actually the tau protein that’s the primary offender. (In fact, it was the tau protein that was significantly reduced by niacinamide in the Alzheimer’s study mentioned earlier.) The research suggests that the tau protein stimulates beta amyloid to develop into abnormal plaque when tau is not functioning properly.8 When tau protein is doing what it should in the brain, the study asserts that beta amyloid doesn’t accumulate and is instead eliminated from the cell.
These markers develop in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex areas of the brain where new memories are formed.9 As they accumulate they have a toxic effect on the neurons impairing their ability to communicate with each other. Eventually, neurons die and the brain shrinks in size, resulting in the type of memory loss we associate with Alzheimer’s disease.
The drive behind drugs
For years, conventional researchers (usually those favouring the use of patent medicines) have tried to find a patent medicine that can put the brakes on cognitive decline.10 But the truth is the patent medicines currently being used to treat Alzheimer’s disease simply aren’t working. At best, the ‘approved’ drugs for the treatment of the disease are useful for less than 12 months in about half of those who take them, and less effective – or not at all effective – for the rest.11
This really isn’t surprising since, as explained before, it’s very unlikely that cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s are caused by a deficiency of molecules never before found in human bodies or even on planet Earth. However, as long as money remains the #1 goal of much of our ‘health care’ system, this situation is unlikely to change.
At the same time, there’s another group of researchers who have been advocating a multi-factorial (and more natural) approach to the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline. They argue that these diseases aren’t caused by just one thing, but rather multiple causes lead to memory loss. Among the causes mentioned are oxidative stress; inflammatory processes such as those that occur in type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and hypertension; chemical and environmental toxins; and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Neurologist and author David Perlmutter discussed many of these toxic insults in his book, ‘Grain Brain’, and in particular points out the neurotoxic effects of grains on neurons and brain health.12
Study: Lifestyle changes lead to significant improvements
One large-scale study conducted over a two-year period and ending in 2014 reported positive results using lifestyle modification. The Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability evaluated 1,260 participants who were at risk for cognitive decline. The participants were divided into two groups, with one group focusing on a programme that included nutritional counselling, exercise, reduction of cardiovascular health risks and cognitive enhancement. The other group received health advice, but wasn’t put on any particular programme.
The group that followed the multifaceted approach to lifestyle saw significant improvements in memory, reaction time and processing, while the group that received just health advice didn’t. It was the first study to demonstrate that a multi-factorial approach would work in the treatment of cognitive decline and a longer, seven-year study is planned. 13
In a 2013 report, Drs. Bredesen and John wrote: “To date, no truly effective therapy has been developed for Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment. In searching for new approaches that may succeed where previous ones have failed, it may be instructive to consider the successful therapeutic developments for other chronic illnesses such as cancer and human immunodeficiency virus.” 14
Programme REVERSED cognitive decline in 3 to 6 months!
Now let’s take a look at Dr. Bredesen’s 2014 research report. The hypothesis underlying his study is that the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are part of deteriorating metabolic processes that left unchecked, can progress to the disabling symptoms we identify as cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. His study focused on an astonishing 36 different areas that can go wrong on the way to memory loss. His therapeutic approach is described as the use of ‘multiple modalities to achieve metabolic enhancement for neurodegeneration (MEND)’. 15
Five men and five women between the ages of 55 and 75 all with varying degrees of cognitive impairment were enrolled in the study. At its onset, participants were having difficulty managing their activities of daily living, including maintaining a job and managing their personal lives.
Dr. Bredesen’s approaches included dietary changes, stress reduction, exercise, cognitive stimulation and sleep improvement, to name just a few components of the therapeutic programme. At the conclusion of the study the symptoms of cognitive decline had been reversed in an incredible nine out of 10 participants within three to six months of beginning the programme.
Follow Dr. Bredesen’s pathto an Alzheimer’s-free life!
The components of the programme that participants undertook were designed to target many different ways in which the brain may be affected by neurotoxic insults.
- Improve diet to reduce insulin resistance, improve type 2 diabetes and decrease inflammation. In the Bredesen study, participants had an option to try one of several different diets including low grain, low glycaemic and anti-inflammatory diets. Volunteers were encouraged to reduce simple carbohydrates, to maintain a 12-hour overnight fast and to eat their last meal of the day no later than three hours before bedtime. As part of the programme, participants were advised to keep their fasting insulin levels below 7 and their HgA1C levels under 5.5. Participants were also encouraged to take pre- and probiotics to improve gastrointestinal health.
- Improve mitochondrial function by reducing oxidative stress. Participants in the programme were encouraged to take supplements to raise and maintain antioxidant levels and optimize mitochondrial function. These supplements included CoQ10, alpha-lipoic acid, polyquinolone quinone (PQQ), n-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR), selenium, zinc, resveratrol, ascorbate and thiamine. Other antioxidants that were recommended to improve oxidative stress were vitamin E, selenium, blueberries and vitamin C.
- Reduce stress and the resulting inflammation by practicing yoga and meditation daily.16,17
- Improve sleep to increase oxygenation and reduce stress, by getting eight hours of sleep a night. Participants were given 0.5mg of tryptophan and melatonin each night. And, if needed, participants were also treated for sleep apnoea.18
- Balance hormone levels. Participant’s oestrogen, progesterone, pregnenolone, testosterone and thyroid hormones were monitored and kept properly balanced. When combined with #9 (improving acetylcholine synthesis) oestrogen can have a beneficial effect on brain function – as shown in animal studies19,20 – even in older women who’ve been deprived of adequate oestrogen for a relatively long time.
- Exercise was encouraged with participants being asked to do 30-60 minutes per day, four to six days per week.21
- Stimulate the mind using brain exercises, such as those developed by Posit Science.
- Enhance cognition with supplements including the herb Bacopa monnieri and the mineral magnesium-L-threonate.22
- Improve focus using pantothenic acid, a precursor to acetylcholine synthesis. (Most current patent medicine therapies for Alzheimer’s focus on increasing the levels of acetylcholine in the brain; they work – although with relatively poor results – by slowing the breakdown of acetylcholine.) It makes more natural sense to increase acetylcholine as Nature does, with supplementation of choline, a major actetylchloline precursor and other cofactors. Pantothenic acid is a major cofactor. The process is also dependent on zinc, B vitamins and magnesium.23
- Reduce the inflammatory markers homocysteine and C-reactive protein (CRP) using supplements. Recommended supplements to reduce homocysteine include methylcobalamin (vitamin B12), methylfolate (or folinic acid), pyridoxal 5 phosphate (P5P, a form of vitamin B6) and trimethylglycine (TMG). Participants aimed for a serum B12 level of above 500 and a homocysteine level below 7. To reduce CRP, participants in the study were encouraged to keep their CRP level under 1.0 by adjusting diet, and using supplemental curcumin and EPA/DHA.
- Focus on other beneficial supplementation including…
- Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) such as coconut oil which has many proponents in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Coconut oil may work by reducing inflammation and the production of beta amyloid.24
- Zinc and copper balanced with monitored supplementation.
- Curcumin and ashwagandha which other research has found to reduce beta amyloid
- Vitamin D3 and K2. Participants were encouraged to keep their vitamin D3 levels at 50 to 100ng/ml (the ‘tropical optimal’ level) and to take vitamin K2.
- Promote new nerve connections (synapses). Supplemental citicoline and DHA were recommended for this purpose.
- Increase Sirtuin 1. For this, participants were advised to take resveratrol, which is also well-known as a longevity-promoting supplement.
- Reduce heavy metal toxicity. Measurement and chelation therapy of heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, and cadmium, was encouraged for all study participants
- Increase nerve growth factor using supplemental acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) and Lion’s Mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus).
- Maintain good dental care. Participants were encouraged to maintain good oral hygiene throughout the programme including using an electric toothbrush and electric dental flosser.
STILL symptom free two and a half years AFTER the study!
Dr. Bredesen shared three participant profiles in his study and we’re going to take a closer look at two of them here.
Case study number one is that of a 67-year-old woman who had been experiencing progressive cognitive decline. She had been having trouble at work especially when she had to deal with numbers. This kind of complaint is often an early sign of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. She had begun to have difficulty driving, remembering pet names and finding light switches at home, problems she hadn’t previously had. Her doctor diagnosed her with mild cognitive impairment.
She began some, but not all, of the steps in the therapeutic programme outlined by Dr. Bredesen detailed above. The programme is personalized for each individual and she implemented the following six approaches:
- She changed her diet avoiding gluten, processed foods and simple carbohydrates. She ate more vegetables, fruit and fish (wild, not farmed); maintained a 12-hour fast overnight; and stopped eating three hours before going to bed.
- She started doing yoga (eventually becoming a yoga instructor herself), meditating 20 minutes twice a day, and exercising at least 30 minutes a day for four to six days a week.
- She increased her sleep from four to five hours a night to seven to eight hours, aided by taking 0.5mg of melatonin before bed. [Melatonin is available on prescription only in the UK].
- She started taking 1 mg of vitamin B12, 2000mg of fish oil, 2000IU of vitamin D3 and 200mg of CoQ10 daily.
- She improved her dental care by using an electric toothbrush and flosser.
- She went back on a bio-identical hormone replacement programme.
She showed improvement within three to six months of initiating the programme, as did nine of the 10 participants in the study. She lost 20 pounds and was able to drive, remember important numbers and work in her demanding job without any problems. The progressive cognitive decline she had been experiencing was stopped and she remained symptom free for two-and a half years after the study.
His decline in memory was stopped in its tracks!
Dr. Bredesen also profiled the case of a 69-year-old man who had been experiencing cognitive decline over an 11-year period. He had trouble recalling the combination on his gym locker, which he felt was not normal for him. He was experiencing an increasing inability to recognise the faces of people he was working with, and needed help in managing his daily schedule. He could no longer add up columns of numbers in his head, a skill he had had for many years. After PET scanning, he was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease.
He began the therapeutic programme advocated by Dr. Bredesen. Using the following components of the programme (remember each programme is individualised):
- He changed his diet, eliminating simple carbohydrates and eating more fruits, vegetables, non-farmed organic chicken and grass-fed beef. He fasted 12 hours overnight and avoided eating three hours before bed.
- He began a daily supplement programme that included taking one teaspoon of coconut oil twice a day as well as a taking a probiotic, 250mg of Bacopa monniera, 500mg of ashwagandha, 400mg of turmeric, 1,000mcg of vitamin B12, 800mcg of methylfolate, 50mg of pyridoxine-5-phosphate, 500mg of citicoline, 1g of vitamin C, 5,000IU of vitamin D3, 200mg of CoQ10, 50mg of zinc picolinate, 100mg of alpha lipoic acid, 320mg of DHEA, 180mg of EPA and 400IU of vitamin E daily.
- He optimized his sleep schedule by taking 0.5mg of melatonin before bed, and sleeping eight hours most nights.
- He maintained a strenuous exercise programme of swimming, bicycling, and running.
After being on the programme six months, he not only lost 10 pounds but was able to recognise co-workers, remember his work schedule, and function as well as, if not better, than previously in some key areas, such as calculating columns of numbers quickly in his head. After years of rapidly progressive symptoms, the decline in memory was halted.
Nine out of 10 improved – no drugs needed!
This exciting research supports an individualized approach to the treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, using diet, exercise, and natural supplements which target progressive body deterioration. But as is the custom among researchers reporting breakthrough therapies, Dr. Bredesen cautiously writes that more study is needed, and that so far the results are ‘anecdotal’.
But since I’m not the researcher, I can be straightforward with you about these results (nine of 10 significantly improved with entirely natural means and no patent medicines!) supporting everything that clinicians and other health professionals in the holistic world have been saying for 100 years or more: human disease is best treated with substances and energies actually found on planet Earth, and not with substances or energies never (before patenting) found here!
This research also shows us that disorders affecting memory and cognitive function are a product of our modern life with many things in our environment affecting us. The best approach is to prevent them completely by living a lifestyle that promotes rather than degrades brain health. If that’s not been done and treatment is needed, it should be an entirely natural programme to address multiple aspects of deteriorating body function. And before I forget: Thank you so much to Dr. Dale E. Bredesen!
Wishing you the best of health,
Dr. Jonathan V. Wright
Nutrition & Healing
Vol. 9, Issue 5 • May 2015
Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly Nutrition and Healing issue in which this article appears.