Breakthrough Research Shows It’s Possible…
Can Alzheimer’s symptoms be reversed? A breakthrough treatment suggests that they can. In a study recently published in the journal Aging, Dale Bredesen, MD, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Program at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, presented an all-natural, multicomponent treatment program that reversed memory loss in four people with Alzheimer’s and in five people with either subjective cognitive impairment or mild cognitive impairment (the stages of memory loss that typically precede Alzheimer’s).
Bottom Line/Personal interviewed Dr. Bredesen, who explained that his program is based on a new theory about why people get Alzheimer’s. This theory was developed over two decades of cellular and animal research at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and UCLA…
The current, widely accepted theory of Alzheimer’s says that the protein beta-amyloid forms plaques outside neurons in the brain…somehow triggering the production of abnormal tau tangles inside neurons…thereby interfering with synapses, the information-laden connections between neurons that create memory and other mental activity.
New thinking: Normal mental function depends on a balance between synaptoblastic (synapse-making) and synaptoclastic (synapse-destroying) activity. If there is more synaptoclastic activity, memory loss may ensue. If there is chronic synaptoclastic activity, our research suggests that Alzheimer’s occurs.
My colleagues and I have identified 36 unique synapse-affecting factors (including beta-amyloid). Addressing only one or two of these factors—with a drug, for example—will not reverse Alzheimer’s. But addressing many factors—10, 20 or more—can effectively reverse the symptoms.
Here are several key factors in what we call the MEND (Metabolic Enhancement for NeuroDegeneration) program—factors anyone can use to prevent, slow, stop or potentially even reverse memory loss…
Synapse-making and synapse-destroying factors function in a “loop” that develops momentum, like a snowball rolling downhill. In the synapse-destroying momentum of Alzheimer’s, you gradually lose memories, ultimately even basic ones such as the faces of loved ones. But because the synapse-making factors in the MEND program are so effective, they can reverse the momentum of Alzheimer’s. The more of them that you incorporate into your daily life, the more momentum there is to protect and restore memory.
• Optimize diet. Eliminate simple carbohydrates such as anything made from white flour and/or refined sugar. Don’t eat processed foods with either “trans fats” or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on the label. If you’re sensitive to gluten, minimize your consumption of gluten-containing foods, such as wheat and rye (there are simple tests to determine whether you are indeed gluten-sensitive). Emphasize fruits and vegetables. Eat nonfarmed fish for neuron-protecting omega-3 fatty acids.
Why it works: This dietary approach reduces inflammation and high levels of insulin (the hormone that regulates blood sugar), both of which are synapse-destroying. Important: Dietary changes have more impact than any other factor in preventing or reversing memory loss.
Helpful: Four books that have diets consistent with MEND are Eat to Live by Joel Furhman, MD…The Blood Sugar Solution by Mark Hyman, MD…The Spectrum by Dean Ornish, MD…and Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD.
• Have a nightly “fast.” Don’t eat three hours before bedtime. Ideally, 12 hours should pass between the last time you eat at night and when you eat breakfast. Example: Dinner ending at 8:00 pm and breakfast starting at 8:00 am.
Why it works: This eating pattern enhances autophagy (the body’s ability to “clean up” dysfunctional cells, such as beta-amyloid) and ketosis (the generation of ketones, molecules that can help protect neurons). It also reduces insulin.
• Reduce stress. Pick a relaxing, enjoyable activity—walking in the woods, yoga, meditation, playing the piano, etc.—and do it once a day or every other day for at least 20 to 30 minutes.
Why it works: Stress destroys neurons in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that helps create short- and long-term memory. Stress also boosts cortisol, a synapse-damaging hormone. And stress increases corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), a hormone linked to Alzheimer’s.
• Optimize sleep. Sleep seven to eight hours every night.
Why it works: Anatomical changes during sleep flush the brain of toxic, synapse-damaging compounds. If you have trouble sleeping, we have found that 0.5 mg of melatonin at bedtime is the best dose for restorative sleep.
• Exercise regularly. I recommend 30 to 60 minutes per day, four to six days per week. Combining aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking) with weight-training is ideal.
Why it works: Among its many benefits, exercise produces brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a powerfully synaptoblastic compound.
• Stimulate your brain. Brain-training exercises and games stimulate and improve your ability to remember, pay attention, process information quickly and creatively navigate daily life.
Why it works: Just as using muscle builds muscle, using synapses builds synapses. (Scientists call this ability of the brain to change and grow plasticity.)
• Take folate, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12. These three nutrients can reduce blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which is linked to an increase in tau, increased age-related shrinkage of the hippocampus and double the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
However: To work, these supplements must undergo a biochemical process called methylation—and many older people don’t “methylate” well, rendering the supplements nearly useless. To avoid the problem, take a form of the supplements that already is methylated (or activated)—folate as L-methylfolate, B-6 as pyridoxal-5-phosphate and B-12 as methylcobalamin.
• Take other targeted supplements. Along with the three B vitamins, there are many other supplements that target synaptoblastic and synaptoclastic factors. Check with your doctor about the right dosages. The supplements include vitamin D-3 (low levels double the risk for Alzheimer’s)…vitamin K-2…vitamin E (as mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols)…the minerals selenium, magnesium and zinc (zinc, for example, lowers copper, which is linked to Alzheimer’s)…DHA and EPA (anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids)…coenzyme Q10, N-acetyl-cysteine, alpha-lipoic acid (they nourish mitochondria, energy-generating structures within cells)…and probiotics (they improve the microbiome, helping to strengthen the lining of the gut, reducing body-wide inflammation).
Also, certain herbs can be helpful. These include curcumin (1 gram per day), ashwagandha (500 mg once or twice per day) and bacopa monnieri (200 mg to 300 mg per day). These have multiple effects, such as reducing inflammation and amyloid-beta peptide and enhancing neurotransmission.