Since it was first described over 100 years ago, Alzheimer’s Disease has been without an effective treatment.
And while researchers around the world are working tirelessly to find treatments and a cure for dementia, much of this work centres around Alzheimer’s Disease – the most common form of dementia.
A small study out of UCLA in the U.S has been very promising and with an extensive, controlled clinical trial in development – there could be more definitive results available in the next few years which could help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.
The paper’s author Professor Dale Bredesen, UCLA’s Augustus Rose Professor of Neurology, says there has not been a single drug which has been found to stop or even slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease, and drugs have only had modest effects on symptoms despite more than a billion dollars being spent on research in the U.S alone.
His study, which was conducted over more than two years and focused on 10 patients, is the first to objectively show that memory loss in patients can be reversed, and improvement sustained, using a complex, 36-point therapeutic personalized program that involves comprehensive changes in diet, brain stimulation, exercise, optimization of sleep, specific pharmaceuticals and vitamins, and multiple additional steps that affect brain chemistry.
“All of these patients had either well-defined mild cognitive impairment (MCI), subjective cognitive impairment (SCI) or had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease before beginning the program,” he says.
“Follow-up testing showed some of the patients going from abnormal to normal.”
His findings are contrary to the popular belief that the disease is caused by an accumulation of sticky plaques on the brain.
Bredesen’s research focused on the theory that rather than a single targeted agent, the solution might be a multiple-component system approach, in line with the approach for other chronic illnesses.
“The existing Alzheimer’s Disease drugs affect a single target, but Alzheimer’s Disease is more complex. Imagine having a roof with 36 holes in it, and your drug patched one hole very well,” he says.
“The drug may have worked, and a single hole may have been fixed, but you still have 35 other leaks and so the underlying process may not be affected much.”
His patients were subjected to some (not always all) of the following:
- eliminating all simple carbohydrates, gluten and processed food from their diet, and eating more vegetables, fruits and non-farmed fish
- meditating twice a day and beginning yoga to reduce stress
- sleeping seven to eight hours per night, up from four to five
- taking melatonin, methylcobalamin, vitamin D3, fish oil and coenzyme Q10 each day
- optimizing oral hygiene using an electric flosser and electric toothbrush
- reinstating hormone replacement therapy, which had previously been discontinued
- fasting for a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, and for a minimum of three hours between dinner and bedtime
- exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes, four to six days per week
One patient, a 69-year old professional man and entrepreneur, who was in the process of shutting down his business, went on the protocol after 11 years of progressive memory loss. After six months, his wife, co-workers and he noted improvement in memory. A life-long ability to add columns of numbers rapidly in his head returned and he reported an ability to remember his schedule and recognize faces at work.
After 22 months on the protocol, he returned for follow-up quantitative neuropsychological testing; results showed marked improvements in all categories with his long-term recall increasing from the 3rd to 84th percentile. Rather than shutting down his business, he is now making plans to expand.
Prof Bredesen says the program’s downsides are its complexity and that the burden falls on patients and carers to follow it. In the study, none of the patients was able to stick to the entire protocol. Their most common complaints were the diet and lifestyle changes, and having to take multiple pills each day.
The good news, though, said Bredesen, are the side effects: “It is noteworthy that the major side effects of this therapeutic system are improved health and an improved body mass index, a stark contrast to the side effects of many drugs.”
Plans for a larger study are underway.
To read the study, click here.
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