We’ve read a lot about research in ways to delay the onset, or diminish the full impact of, Alzheimer’s disease. But now comes news of a trial at UCLA and Buck Institute that is reported to be the first time that memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s has actually been reversed.
It was a small trial, involving 10 participants who were suffering from Alzheimer’s-related memory loss. They were put through a complex, 36-point program that involved comprehensive changes in diet, brain stimulation, exercise, sleep optimization, specific pharmaceuticals and vitamins, and other steps affecting brain chemistry. The results: 9 out of the 10 displayed improvements in their memory within 3 to 6 months after the program started.
Six of the 10 patients had had to discontinue working, or were struggling with their jobs, when the program began. All were able to return to work or continue working.
The findings, published in the current online edition of the journal Aging, “are very encouraging. However, at the current time the results are anecdotal, and therefore a more extensive, controlled clinical trial is warranted,” said Dale Bredesen, the Augustus Rose Professor of Neurology and Director of the Easton Center at UCLA, a professor at the Buck Institute, and the author of the paper…
In the case of Alzheimer’s disease, Bredesen notes, there is not one drug that has been developed that stops or even slows the disease’s progression, and drugs have only had modest effects on symptoms. “In the past decade alone, hundreds of clinical trials have been conducted for Alzheimer’s at an aggregate cost of over a billion dollars, without success,” he said.
Other chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and HIV, have been improved through the use of combination therapies, he noted. Yet in the case of Alzheimer’s and other memory disorders, comprehensive combination therapies have not been explored. Yet over the past few decades, genetic and biochemical research has revealed an extensive network of molecular interactions involved in AD pathogenesis. “That suggested that a broader-based therapeutics approach, rather than a single drug that aims at a single target, may be feasible and potentially more effective for the treatment of cognitive decline due to Alzheimer’s,” said Bredesen.
What goes into a personalized, “systems” approach? Here are some of the main elements in the therapeutic program that was put in place for a female patient who was forgetting her way home:
(1) Eliminating all simple carbohydrates, leading to a weight loss of 20 pounds
(2) Eliminating gluten and processed food from her diet, with increased vegetables, fruits, and non-farmed fish
(3) To reduce stress, she began yoga
(4) As a second measure to reduce the stress of her job, she began to meditate for 20 minutes twice per day
(5) She took melatonin each night
(6) She increased her sleep from 4-5 hours per night to 7-8 hours per night
(7) She took methylcobalamin each day
(8) She took vitamin D3 each day
(9) Fish oil each day
(10) CoQ10 each day
(11) She optimized her oral hygiene using an electric flosser and electric toothbrush
(12) Following discussion with her primary care provider, she reinstated hormone replacement therapy that had been discontinued
(13) She fasted for a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, and for a minimum of three hours between dinner and bedtime
(14) She exercised for a minimum of 30 minutes, 4-6 days per week.
Can anyone do all this?
The downside to this program is its complexity. It is not easy to follow, with the burden falling on the patients and caregivers, and none of the patients were able to stick to the entire protocol. The significant diet and lifestyle changes, and multiple pills required each day, were the two most common complaints. The good news, though, said Bredesen, are the side effects: “It is noteworthy that the major side effect of this therapeutic system is improved health and an optimal body mass index, a stark contrast to the side effects of many drugs.”
Of course I’m not qualified to evaluate this new program. But it’s encouraging that researchers are looking beyond the One Single Wonder Drug solution — and if further, broader clinical trials validate this “systems” approach, the implications are obviously staggering. I strongly recommend you read the entire article, which you’ll find here.