Last week my wife and I finished watching “The Alzheimer’s Project,” a four-part series on HBO.  If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it; the episodes are informative and often touching.  You may find yourself moved to tears.

I certainly was, but that’s mostly because I was thinking about my dad, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a couple of years ago and has declined markedly in the past six months.  I always expected to lose my father someday, but not like this.  I thought he’d be here one day and gone the next.  I would say goodbye, grieve for awhile, and miss him forever.  Instead, we lose a little bit of him day by day.

For most of my life, my image of my dad was largely defined by his high intelligence and quick wit.  He left a comfortable corporate job in his mid-30s to buy his own business and did well.  He devoured books and magazines and remembered everything he read.  When we played Trivial Pursuit, he’d run the table in about a half hour, then the rest of us would play on as if he hadn’t been there.  Some friends of his who saw my standup comedy act commented that they saw a lot his style of humor in mine, and they were right.  I tell stories on stage, and my dad was always a gifted story-teller. 

In retrospect, we realize something began going awry in his brain at least a few years before the official diagnosis.  He stopped reading and spent hours vegetating in front of the TV.  His once-competent golf game went south.  He began missing stop signs and making wrong turns in the neighborhood were he’d lived for more than 30 years.  But most of the time, he still seemed like himself.

Nowadays, he can’t follow a normal conversation. He rarely knows what day it is.  He tries to put his legs into the sleeves of his shirt when he’s dressing.  When my parents have friends over for dinner, he’ll tell my mom he’s tired and wants to go home.  In recent weeks, he’s had to ask both my mom and my sister who they are.  I haven’t seen him since the holiday season, and I know the next time I go home to visit, there’s a good chance he won’t know who I am.

I’ve read quite a bit about Alzheimer’s in the past year, and I know now that my dad was a walking bundle of risk factors.  His mother died of the disease, although she was in her mid-eighties, not early seventies.  He took Lipitor for 20 years.  Despite being touted as wonder drug that may even help with Alzheimer’s, the truth is that memory problems are a known side-effect of statins.  Dr. Duane Graveline, a former NASA astronaut, suffered bouts of extreme confusion and memory loss until he identified Lipitor as the culprit and stopped taking it.

(And by the way, Dad still ended up with stents put in his arteries, which were 98 percent blocked.  So much for the wonders of statins.)

Dad was also a heavy smoker until he quit at age 58 – and then, like many people who give up nicotine, he developed a fondness for sweets and starches.  He gained a lot of weight.  He suffered from sleep apnea.  He showed all the signs of someone developing insulin resistance.

Which brings me back to The Alzheimer’s Project.  In one episode, they named insulin resistance as a major risk factor.  Diabetics are four times more likely to develop the disease, and people who are insulin-resistant are at three times the usual risk.  Many doctors are now referring to Alzheimer’s as Type III Diabetes.

I was pleased at that point.  But then some goofy doctor cited a study which demonstrated that people who consume a diet high in sugar and saturated fat produce more insulin than those who consume a diet low in sugar and saturated fat.  I nearly jumped off out of my chair, yelling, “What the @#$% does saturated fat have to do with insulin?!  Fat is the only macronutrient that doesn’t raise insulin!”

This is akin to comparing people who consume a lot of whiskey and carrots to those who consume almost no whiskey and very few carrots.  Turns out the key to sobriety is a low-whiskey, low-carrot diet.  (Don’t order the side of carrots if you’re driving yourself home.)

Meanwhile, as my wife and I watched the scenes that showed Alzheimer’s patients and their families struggling at home, we couldn’t help but notice their meals were a parade of mashed potatoes, pies, cookies, sodas, and other carbohydrates.  This proves nothing, of course; you could step into most American kitchens and find those foods on the table.  But it certainly adds weight to the theory that Alzheimer’s may be a form of diabetes.

Some months ago, we watched another documentary about a woman’s personal struggles dealing with her mother’s Alzheimer’s. She noted that rates of Alzheimer’s are increasing, and since she grew up in a town polluted with industrial waste, she guessed that pollutants may be largely to blame.

Perhaps so.  But I think it’s more likely that the rise in Alzheimer’s is being driven by the same factor that’s driving the rise in obesity and Type II diabetes:  high-carbohydrate diets.  Nature simply didn’t intend for human beings to rely on high levels of insulin to smack their blood sugar down several times per day. 

The last episode, which was presented in two parts, featured some brilliant and dedicated researchers who are working to develop drugs to stop the disease.  They believe they’re close. That’s good news, but if Alzheimer’s truly is Type III diabetes, then prevention is (as always) the best medicine.  That means ignoring the stupid advice we’ve been fed by the USDA , the FDA, and countless other nutrition “experts,” and getting off the sugar and the starch.

I just wish I could go back in time and warn my dad.  I’d also like to tell him I love him a few more times without having to explain who I am.

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34 Responses to “The Alzheimer’s Project”
  1. matt beaudreau says:

    Tom-

    Love the blog- and absolutely love the whiskey and carrots analogy. Best of luck with your dad.

    I appreciate that.

  2. Rambodoc says:

    I am sorry about your Dad. I know this means so much more to you than most people.
    I was doing some research yesterday on ketogenic diets, and found a paper or two that talked of it being useful for Alzheimer’s. OF course, we do know KD does great for kids with epilepsy, but it could also do so for schizophrenia and other brain disorders. You probably know more about these than I do!

    I’ve got my mom cuttng back on Dad’s sugars and starches and givng him some MCT oil, but once you no longer recongize your wife of 50-plus years, it’s a bit late. All I can do now is hope my mom can continue handling the pressure … and make sure it doesn’t happen to me.

  3. Melinda Fairchild says:

    Tom,

    Been there, done that. It’s sad to read what you and your family are facing. There is protection in eating fat so maybe, along with cutting out the carbs, you could get your mom to add in butter and steaks to slow the progression of it. I’ve had so little luck in directing people toward a healthier diet that it seems hopeless. I’ve experienced amazing repair since I started eating very low carb and now zero carb. I’m thinking that maybe it is never too late.

    Thanks for blogging.

    Melinda

    I’ve got Mom giving him MCT oil and coconut oil, plus cutting back on the carbs and serving more protein and fat. She isn’t noticing a difference at this point — perhaps there’s just too much permanent damage — but I keep telling her it can’t hurt to try.

  4. Tom,

    I am sorry to hear about your dad. I had a great Aunt that my Grandfather was taking care of that was in the later stages of Alzheimer’s. She once chased me around the house with “Franks” belt because I had not milked the cows in the morning.

    I tell you that I would not wish that disease on anyone, and I hope that things are not too hard for your mother.

    On the whole nutritional side of things: I was a chef in a large retirement home with a section of Dementia/Alzheimer patients. We also had a nutritionist that constantly gave snacks of vanilla wafers, supplement drinks, and various other fun stuff. If the disease is like a type III diabetes, well…

    In the series, they mentioned that Alzheimer’s is the second-most feared disease, after cancer. I’d rather have the cancer. I could beat that. I haven’t heard of anyone beating Alzheimer’s yet.

    Yes, we saw these loving family members serving what I’m sure they see as comfort food … cookies, pies, etc. If only they understood that’s a bit like giving a cigarette to a lung-cancer patient. No surprise, unfortunately, that a nutritionist doesn’t know any better either.

  5. Willa Jean says:

    I think that you’re giving yourself the best chance possible by changing your diet and avoiding the Lipitor. (No, I don’t think it causes Alzheimer’s, but the damage it does to the brain certainly isn’t helping.) And who know? Changing your dad’s diet may help some, surely won’t hurt, and, if nothing else, will probably slow his decline. Good for you. Good for her, for listening.
    It seems to me that pollutants and sugars might be partners in pushing the rise of a number of disorders. Most pollutants seem to be stored largely in the fatty tissues; high sugar/starch diets create increased fat storage. I’m not discounting the role of insulin, heredity, and who-knows-what-else, and I have read NO science to back this up, but it seems wise to avoid eating sweets and drinking insecticides whenever possible.
    LOVE the whiskey and carrots observation. If you don’t mind, I’m going to use that one the next time my MD spews his nutritional ignorance at me.
    You and all the family have my prayers.

    I don’t think statins directly cause Alzheimer’s, but they could lower the body’s defenses, since cholesterol is a crucial part of the defensive system.

    Both Dr. Graveline and Dr. Malcolm Kendrick have described cases in which statin-induced memory loss mimicked Alzheimer’s, without actually causing the disease. Dr. Graveline had episodes in which he couldn’t remember anything after high school.

    Five or six years ago, my dad had a couple episodes in which he became profoundly confused for a day or so, then seemed to recover. The doctors had no explanation.

  6. Sean Preuss says:

    Saturated fat always gets thrown in some how. I’m sorry to hear about your father. Jimmy Moore spoke of coconut oil as an effective treatment for dimentia symptoms in a podcast interview with Dr. Mary Newport. Have you heard the interview? I don’t know if it works, but here’s Dr. Newport’s website:

    http://www.coconutketones.com/

    Best wishes Tom.

    Pretty soon they’ll blame the economic meltdown on saturated fat. “We compared people who consumed all the equity in their homes and ate a lot of saturated fat to people who consumed very little equity and very little satured fat. The people on the low-equity, low-fat diet were much less likely to be in foreclosure.”

    I heard the interview with Dr. Newport and immediately ordered a bottle of MCT oil shipped to my parents. Mom says she isn’t noticing a difference yet. Dad may be too far gone.

  7. Sean Preuss says:

    Nevermind…I just read your response to Rambodoc.

  8. Dear Tom,

    Thank you for wrting that, a very moving piece. Alzheimer’s is a very sad condition as you have described.

    In the UK the stats are the same with Alzheimer’s on the increase.

    Thanks for writing Fat Head, it really is the best. Are there any plans to release fat head the movie in the UK?

    If it were up to me, Fat Head would’ve been on sale in the U.K. since February. Unfortunately, all the international distributor can do is pitch the film to U.K. DVD markets. So far, no luck, which means it’s up to me to keep generating interest in the film until we reach that critical mass where they want to carry it.

    If you call your local DVD store and ask for it, that may also give them a nudge. Our U.S. distributor told me the stores often keep track of requests and report them to the DVD distributors.

  9. Rambodoc says:

    Oh, and one more thing: saturated fats do increase insulin.
    Ref:
    Collier G, et al. The effect of coingestion of fat on the glucose, insulin, and gastric inhibitory polypeptide responses to carbohydrate and protein. Am J Clin Nutr 1983;37(6):941-4.
    Collier G, et al. The acute effect of fat on insulin secretion. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1988;66(2):323-6.
    Rasmussen O, et al. Differential effects of saturated and monounsaturated fat on blood glucose and insulin responses in subjects with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Am J Clin Nutr 1996 Feb;63(2):249-53.

    Interesting articles, thanks. I noticed in each case, they measured insulin response after mixing fats with a high GI carbohydrate, such as a baked potato. So it seems that while saturated fats alone don’t spike insulin, they accelerate the rise initiated by carbohydrates. (If there’s a study in which fats alone spiked insulin, let me know … I’d want to see that one as well.) The question is why … any clues as to the biochemistry of this result?

    Still more evidence that high-fat/high-carb combos are indeed the worst of all.

  10. Dave says:

    Hi Tom. I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer’s, and you have my greatest sympathy.

    Here’s something I wrote a few years ago on the topic.

    Advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) are the endpoints of some complicated chemistry that occurs when simple sugars (glucose, fructose, etc.) react with proteins (and apparently fats too). They’re toxic for a variety of reasons, and trigger an inflammatory response via the receptor for advanced glycation endproducts, or RAGE.

    It turns out that RAGE binds to a whole bunch of things, and amongst them is the amyloid beta peptide, which is implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s. Amyloid beta is apparently produced via neural activity. I can’t figure out if it has a function or is just a by-product. I suspect it has some function, because the body has a mechanism for achieving a balance in the central nervous system (CNS). One kind of receptor (LRP) causes active transport out of the CNS to the blood, while RAGE triggers transport from the blood to the CNS across the blood-brain barrier. More RAGEs means you’ll have more amyloid beta in your brain. I couldn’t verify this, but I would guess that insulin drives the formation of RAGE. It makes sense, as your body would be preparing for glycation damage (more AGEs) from increased blood sugar, whether the source was food or glucose released due to stress. And indeed, diabetics have higher concentrations of RAGE (as do the blood vessels in the brains of Alzheimer’s victims).

    We learned today that stress actually increases amyloid beta production in the brain, via the action of corticotrophin releasing factor, or CRF. I got in contact with one of the authors of that study and he was nice enough to send me a reprint of the paper. It’s a pretty solid piece of research. Amongst other things, they showed that the more you stress mice, the more amyloid beta is produced. They could introduce CRF directly into the brain, and observe increased amyloid beta production. They could block the action of CRF, stress the mice, and see that less amyloid beta was produced. And finally they could directly block neural activity, and either stress the mice or introduce CRF, and again would see reduced amyloid beta. So it was a pretty solid case, albeit in mice. It would be surprising if humans turned out to be much different, though it’s certainly possible. CRF is released as part of the stress response. It is also released as a result of insulin-induced hypoglycemia, i.e. insulin goes up, blood sugar crashes, CRF pumps out.

    One last piece of the puzzle: by itself, amyloid beta is soluble, and shouldn’t form solid plaques (or at least do so slowly). But test-tube experiments show that formation of solid “fibrillar aggregates” of amyloid beta are accelerated if you provide seeds of altered amyloid beta. And what’s one form of the alteration? Glycation damage from sugar.

    So my hypothesis is that the route to Alzheimer’s mirrors that of heart disease. A high-carbohydrate diet leads to the following effects:
    1. Increase in density of receptors for advanced glycation endproducts, which leads to increased amyloid beta concentrations in the brain.
    2. Release of CRF, which increases production of amyloid beta in the brain.
    3. Damage to amyloid beta, which increases the formation rate of solid aggregates, which may be contributory toward the formation of the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s.
    And of course, there’s the usual feedback between stress and diet: psychosocial stress makes you want to eat more carbohydrates, which makes you more stressed, etc.

    Well done, as usual. Do you have a link to the original post?

    In the HBO series, they did mention stress as a risk factor, but without the biochemical explanation. They also mentioned experiments with mice in which exercise seemed to offset the effects of plaque buildup on memory.

  11. Matt says:

    Sorry to hear about your dad. A relative of mine has developed Alzheimer’s and I’ve seen what his immediate family has had to go through. I wish you the best.

    Interestingly enough, saturated fat (or any fat) would keep the carbs in the stomach for a longer period of time (especially assuming any amount of protein is in the meal) and make for a steadier release of glucose into the bloodstream, thereby lowering the need for excess insulin.

    I thought so as well, but see the comment by Rambodoc. Looks as if saturated fat, as opposed to monosaturated, may actually accelerate the insulin response provoked by the carbohydrates.

  12. Jeanne says:

    I hope you’ve seen this:

    http://www.coconutketones.com/

    Good stuff, and thanks for the link. I’ve got Mom giving Dad coconut oil, but she isn’t seeing a difference at this point. I think the damage in his brain is too severe by now, but who knows …

  13. ethyl d says:

    I’m really sorry about your dad. It’s just so exasperating to hear all these stories of people who are suffering so much in large part due to the misguided nutritional advice that prevails. I wish I had known when my parents were alive what I know now. But maybe we can keep our children from going through with us what we have gone through with our parents.

    It is frustrating. I know my dad didn’t help his own cause by smoking for so many years, but the advice doled out by the nutrition experts didn’t help either. Mom switched to corn oil and margarine when I was a kid — better for the heart! — which no doubt produced inflammation.

    I also think it’s harmful to artificially beat down cholesterol with a drug. Your body makes cholesterol because it needs the stuff. In addition to his other problems, Dad had two bouts of colon cancer and had to have surgery twice, followed by chemo. I’ve read studies in which it is strongly suggested that cholesterol is protective against cancer … people with high cholesterol are significantly less prone to cancer than those with low cholesterol, part of the reason the high-cholesterol group has a longer average lifespan.

  14. andrew says:

    Thought you might be interested in some interesting research into coconut oil’s effect on Alzheimer’s.

    http://coconutketones.com/

    Yup. We keep a big jar of the stuff in the cupboard. My daughters will eat a spoonful right from the jar. They love it.

  15. Matt R. says:

    Tom,

    Thanks for a very moving post. I watched my grandmother suffer from Dementia for several years, so I know what you’re going through. I wish I knew what I know now, as I would’ve tried to make a difference through diet and supplements. One thing that stands out, which you also mention, is the cravings for sweets. I remember this got worse and worse as she deteriorated.

    As for statins, my mother, after being on hers for several years, tossed hers in the garbage. She does complain about some memory loss, but I’m hoping this doesn’t worsen, as she’s only 63.

    Glad your mother dumped the statins. They’re worse than worthless for women, who’ve never been shown to benefit from them. And yet doctors pass ’em out like candy to women.

  16. Dave Dixon says:

    @Tom,

    There was no post, just an email I had sent.

    @Rambodoc,

    I believe that fat does not cause insulin release itself, but modulates the insulin response for other foods via the secretion of insulinotropic hormones like CCK. Not sure I believe that it’s the degree of saturation that matters as much as the total energy content and the rate at which that energy is delivered. The total energy content is certainly a function of saturation, and I would venture a wild guess that the physical absorption of fats is also affected by saturation, maybe due to differences in geometry of fatty acids and how they are emulsified. Just a guess.

    I don’t know of any direct method cells have of detecting saturation. They can detect energy content by partially metabolizing the fats and detecting the by-products. In principle I suppose they could detect saturation by somehow monitoring the usage of the extra enzymes required to metabolize unsaturated fats. Not sure what the point of making the distinction would be from an evolutionary standpoint, particularly in regards to insulin response.

    I have a feeling that humans evolved to either eat lean protein + carbohydrate (like the Kitavans) or fat-rich protein (like the Inuit). Fat+carbohydrate rich diets might upset normal metabolic function. Protein raises insulin, though considerably less than refined carbohydrate. Fat amplifies this effect, which makes sense if you’re eating fatty meat, but may not be such a good thing when having mashed potatoes smothered in butter and sour cream.

    Another good study:

    Joannic et al, Am J Clin Nutr 1997;65:1427-33.

  17. Nancy LC says:

    I’m sorry about your Dad. I’ve lost both parents in the last 5 years and I have to say the image we have about people grasping their chests and expiring is one that rarely comes to pass. My Dad had his brain starting to go several years before he died, but his end only took about 4 days. It seemed long at the time. But my Mom lingered for a 1.5 years with failing health the entire time and the last couple of weeks were heart-rendingly hard, on me anyway.

    Anyway, it seems like nothing really prepares us for this. The quick death is a luxury most don’t really seem to get. So I know what you meant when you said this: “I always expected to lose my father someday, but not like this. I thought he’d be here one day and gone the next.”

    I think the slow fade would’ve been easier to accept if he’d been closer to his mother’s age when it happened. She was 86. He started noticeably fading at 72, just a few years after he sold his business and retired.

    I hope to be more like his grandfather, who finally got foggy at the end, but he was 101 when he died. At age 97, he was still sharp and able to live alone. I remember taking walks with my great-grandfather when he was around 90, and I could barely keep up with him.

  18. Gabriella says:

    Sorry about what you are going thru with your Dad. I watched my Grandmother fade the same way back in the early eighties and she finally passed in -93. Grandma was the original health-food junkie by the way. Low fat everything, wheat germ, raw sugar, malva tea and Dr. Kruskas cereal… Things I remember from Grandma’s table.

    I guess it’s a relief to know that Alzheimer’s may be caused by high-carb diets. Imagine if we knew that carbs make you fat, but eating them prevented Alzheimer’s.

    Considering that insulin resistance is now showing up in second-graders, God only knows how many drugs people will be taking a generation from now — but not my daughters.

  19. Ellen says:

    Tom, sorry to hear about your Dad. My boyfriend’s father is at about the same state as your dad.. We visited his parents in October of last year, and while he wasn’t completely lucid, he was still “there”, if you know what I mean. Just in the past 6 months, he has lost a great deal of function, and it is heartbreaking to experience, as you know.

    There’s a book you may want to read by a man named Henry Lorin. It’s called Alzheimer’s Solved. His basic premise (and forgive the weak paraphrase) is that the brain is extremely active metabolically, and it is in a constant state of maintaining a balance between the destructive aspects of burning sugar for energy and rebuilding its neurons (brain cells) from incoming cholesterol molecules.

    If blood cholesterol levels fall too low, this delicate balance is upset, and the destruction of the brain cells begins to take the upper hand as oxidative stress increases. (Hence the damage that statins do.. statins of course block cholesterol production, and they also block the production of CoQ10 which the cells need as anti-oxidation protection and to maintain mitochondrial integrity).

    Because the affected brain lacks enough cholesterol for rebuilding its neuronal cell walls, it substitutes beta-amyloid substances instead. This leads to the buildup of the amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimers disease.

    I believe Alzheimer’s has become rampant today because of the “expert” advice to cut cholesterol from our diets and our blood. Cholesterol is a life giving substance, and to artificially lower it is to risk serious body damage. Duane Graveline, MD as you pointed out, has gathered a serious body of evidence about the dangers of statins and lowering cholesterol by force. I would highly encourage people to read what he has to say.

    My dad obviously has the genetic risk factor, but I think the fact that he developed the disease much younger than his mother could be due to 20 years of taking statins, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. And those day-long bouts of confusion he had even before the Alzheimer’s are very much like Dr. Graveline’s experiences.

    I talked my mother into getting him off the Lipitor — and in one of his more lucid moments, Dad said he’d rather have a heart attack than deteriorate slowly from Alzheimier’s — but I guess the damage was already done.

    I believe Taubes mentions Alzheimer’s in his book, which is at my office, or I’d look it up.

  20. Sue says:

    Have you read The Brain Trust Program by Larry McCleary M.D. He is a neurosurgeon. The book is about improving memory, alleviating migraines etc and talks about alzheimers. He calls it Diabetes Type III as well. The introduction was written by the Eades’.

    Haven’t read the book, but I listened to his interview on Jimmy Moore’s show.

  21. Paula says:

    My father had the “distinction” of being the resident who was in the Alzheimer’s unit of a retirement facility for the longest time: from 1989 until 1999, before his death at age 95. We had an autopsy done, which confirmed that he did, indeed, have Alzheimer’s (although the cause of death was pneumonia, as is frequently the case).
    Sorry to rain on the anti-statin parade, but he never swallowed one of them. Sometimes, stuff happens. Meanwhile, I’m trying to avoid statins myself.

    I don’t think most Alzheimer’s cases are caused by statins, but I do believe statins can be an aggravating factor. If your dad had been taking Lipitor since he was in his 50s, the disease may have manifested earlier than without them, which is what I suspect happened in my dad’s case.

    Ten years … that’s a long time to fade. After my dad had chemo, the oncologist told my mom he’d completed a drug regimen that most men his age can’t finish and added, “He’s tougher than I thought.” I just hope his body doesn’t insist on living after his mind is completely gone; he’d hate that.

  22. TonyNZ says:

    Nothing to add that hasn’t already been said except:

    Whisky = Good

    Whiskey = Bad

    I must agree, since the spirits imported from the British Isles are generally superior to ours: Jameson’s, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich. Of course, we have Jack Daniel’s, but as D.L. Hughley said, “Jack Daniels … that drink should come with bail money.”

  23. Debbie says:

    What a heart-wrenching post. I lost my mom, physically, to Alzheimer’s complications in 2004. But actually I had lost my “mom” years and years before that. Mom was 77 when her body gave out, but she was only 56 (eek, younger than I am now) when her Alzeheimer’s symptoms began to manifest themselves. By the time she was 59 it was no longer even safe to leave her alone, and my dad took an early retirement to stay home and care for her.

    By the time she was in her early 60s she no longer knew who any of us were anymore except for my dad, who was with her every day, so she seemed to be able to hold on to his identity a little longer. But by 1996, when she was 68, she was pretty much a vegetable, bed-ridden, unable to talk, unable to recognize anyone, unable to perform a single function for herself other than to chew and swallow whatever someone placed into her mouth.

    Mom was also type II diabetic, but never met a carb she didn’t adore. Sweets were her passion, she would choose dessert over a main course any time. Sadly, that was the way I was raised. Sunday mornings always meant donuts and coffee cake. I think she grew up that way too. My dad still tells the story of when he and my mom were dating, and he was invited over to her house for “Sunday dinner”. His mom’s Sunday dinner usually meant a pot roast and potatoes and gravy and a veggie. But at my mom’s house the Sunday dinner turned out to be vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and whipped cream for all! My dad kept wondering when the “dinner” would appear until he finally realized the ice cream was it.

    Then again my dad is now 81, also type II diabetic, and also never met a carb he didn’t love. Even today a typical day for him is Dunkin Donuts and coffee for breakfast, with maybe some Entenmann’s coffee cake or some cookies as a mid-morning snack, a sandwich on white bread of some sort for lunch, dinner of pasta and sauce, and maybe a few more cookies or some ice cream.

    But he keeps “fat free half-and-half” in his fridge for his coffee, and low-fat “spreads” instead of butter. Yet he still lives on his own and is mentally competent – though has physical problems because he has Parkinson’s.

    I just hope and pray that my own low carb, high healthy fats, lifestyle will keep Alzheimer’s at bay for me. So far I’ve beaten my mom by a year! But then again, my mom’s sister will be 88 this summer, and is still as sharp as a tack and as mentally alert as people half her age, and will celebrate her 66th wedding anniversary this month.

    That’s what makes this such a horrible disease: the body can live on while the mind declines for 20 years. I can’t imagine if Dad had started to fade in his 50s.

    You never know how the genetic chips will fall. My grandma died at 86 with Alzheimer’s; her sister, who lived here in Los Angeles, was 98 when she died and was alert until the last year. When we’d visit her, she’d bring up things we’d talked about six months earlier.

  24. Dave says:

    Tom, nothing to add except to wish you the best. My mother had Alzheimer’s for the last few years before she died of lung cancer; it actually may have made the passing easier for her (if not for the family). My uncle (her brother) contracted it about ten years ago, and has been immobile in a rest home in Burbank for the last 6. I don’t think he’s moved or spoken since then. He survived Iwo Jima, but not this. It’s not easy.

    On a lighter note, I cajoled/forced a group of friends to watch Fathead over Memorial Day, and one couple’s jumped on board full steam, buying their own copy and calling for implementation advice. Same thing with my business partner – though he’s getting a little too zealous; evangelism can tick people off…

    At least he’ll be healthy evangelist … actually, that may really piss people off. No one likes a show-off.

    I appreciate the good wishes, and I offer the same for your uncle. Unfortunately, far too many people know exactly how I feel because they’ve lived through it with a loved one.

    Iwo Jima: lordy, what a battle. My grandfather fought in the Pacific and wouldn’t talk about it. I wish we’d gotten some personal history from him before he died. I salute your uncle.

  25. D says:

    Tom, so sorry about your Dad.

    I work in public housing, two thirds of our residents are elderly or handicapped, and I’ve seen a lot of people decline mentally, people who at one time were bright and sharp. I have one resident who I thought was declining into Alzheimers; however, Adult Protective Services have stepped in, and they tell me that she doesn’t have Alzheimers, but needs oxygen, but won’t use it. Her doctor says that it would improve her mental function if she used it.

    My personal opinion is that our brain needs superior nutrition, and much of the mental decline from aging is from not giving the brain that nutrition. Protein, fat, CoQ10, omega-3s, and keeping well-hydrated will go a long way to keep the brain healthy. And lots and lots of mental stimulation! Reading, puzzles, anything but mindless TV!

    I’m going the low carb, high fat, adequate protein, supplement route myself.

    Take good care of your Mom. She needs all the help & support she can get now.

    We’re moving to Tennessee for lots of reasons, but one is to be within driving distance of Mom. This is tougher on her than it is on Dad –he usually doesn’t know what’s going on. Fortunately, my brother and sister still live in the same town, and one of Dad’s friends has been an absolute saint. He still visits Dad regularly and takes him out for coffee, even though Dad isn’t sure who is sometimes.

  26. Peter says:

    Tom, my heart goes out to you. My mother is fading away slowly from this insidious ailment and there were already times when I’d come to visit (she’s in a nursing home where she can get the 24 hour care she needs) and she doesn’t immediately know who I am. Although she’s 85, (and lets face it, one has to come to grips with mortality) it’s still difficult to deal with. It’s even more difficult when one considers that it’s entirely possible that all this might have been preventable.

    Then, there’s my Mother-In-Law. She’s 75, mentally sharp as a whip, in decent physical shape but she thinks she’s overweight and is following what all the “experts” including her doctor are telling her. Of course, this involves lots of carbs and very little fat and protein. Oh, and she’s type II diabetic.

    To add insult to injury, her doctor has her on Lipitor to control her cholesterol. It’s scary because lately, she’s had occasional memory lapses and tiny little “blank outs.”

    I’m going to give her my copy of Fat Head this weekend and hope she heeds the message. Like I said, she’s sharp — hopefully sharp enough to at least let this prompt her to storm into her doctor’s office and ask some questions. I don’t hold out much hope of her changing her eating habits, but at least if I can get her to think about the medications she’s taking, it will be a step in the right direction.

    I’ve already ordered two more copies of the movie. There’s one other person I know who needs to see this.

    –Peter

    Just getting her off the Lipitor would be a big improvement. I hope she takes the message to heart, pardon the pun. There are no studies that suggest any benefits for women in taking statins.

    I appreciate the good wishes. You know exactly what I’m going through.

  27. Ted Hutchinson says:

    There is on the Alzheimer Project website a section where the science of the series is set out in a little more detail in separate sections.
    Like you I found the films intensely moving and the science on the whole extremely interesting However like you I was distressed by the somewhat overweight doctor pointing to the pile of butter and not the carbohydrate content of the meals.
    If you go to the supplementary science section
    http://www.hbo.com/alzheimers/the-supplementary-series.html
    and then to the relevant section
    http://www.hbo.com/alzheimers/supplementary-the-connection-between-insulin-and-alzheimers.html
    maybe you could leave a comment there.
    It’s not the place I feel for confrontational posts as I feel the series as a whole needs supporting rather than attack however I also think we should make the point that an alternative understanding of the science may provide a more realistic way of understanding what is taking place.
    There are ways of improving insulin sensitivity and while it may be too late for your dad, it isn’t too late for many of the people who watch those films and read these blogs.
    If you haven’t already seen Dr Mary Newport’s site I hope you don’t mind me leaving a link to it. Jimmy Moore also has an interview with her on his blog.
    http://www.coconutketones.com/

    Dr. Newport’s interview on Jimmy Moore’s show was what inspired me to send a bottle of MCT oil to my mom. She’s not noticing any difference yet; Dad’s brain may be too damaged at this point.

    Yeah, some of what the doctors said about fat annoyed me, but I was hardly surprised. And as I’m sure you noticed, many of those suffering from the disease were clearly overweight — a whole group of siblings, in once family — and most likely insulin resistant.

  28. Dave in Ohio says:

    Dr. McCleary has a chapter on Alzheimers in his Brain Trust Program book. I think it’s geared to postponement and prevention rather than cure. The formula involves L-carnitine with alpha-Lipoic acid, C0Q10, vit D2, Magnesium, Taurine, Hyperzine A, and Vinpocetine. Also recommends EPA/DHA. I don’t remember all the dosages, but the book is available in most libraries and is a quick read.

    Dave

  29. Matt says:

    Where in Tennessee? I’d like to meet you in person if I could get the chance.

    We’ve moving to Franklin, south of Nashville. I’ve been there many times and always liked it, so when California started trying to commit suicide, Franklin was first on my list. I also used to perform at the Zanies comedy club in Nashville and stayed downtown for those trips. I like the city too.

  30. @ Dave in Ohio ~ In fact Dr McCleary in his book p109 recommends Vitamin D3 in oil in a soft gel.
    Unfortunately much as I respect Dr McCleary and acknowledge I have learn’t a lot from his blog I think he is wrong to suggest a limit of 2000iu/d on Vitamin D intake. Most people will find 1000iu/daily per 25lbs 11kg about right when combined with regular 25(OH)D testing
    Dr Davis Heartscanblog, working in Wisconsin finds 5000~6000iu/daily is typically required to achieve levels around 60ng and it’s reasonable to suppose that people with damaged brains require the same sort of levels as people with damaged hearts.
    I’d also like to make the point that Dr McCleary puts DIET before the use of supplements, his sample menus are very low carb.
    While I think it’s important that really people should read Dr McCleary’s book, I have set out briefly his supplement suggestions together with some other research on diet/supplements that MAY delay dementia onset in this thread and on my webpages

  31. Dave in Ohio says:

    @Ted

    D2 was a typo — I meant to say D3. And I agree his dosage for D3 is too low. I take 5000 /day.

    Dave

  32. ruth says:

    Tom – I know how you feel about your father. I have been there. My father died two years ago in a nursing home but had been on the decline for several years before that. It started slowly but gradually got worse. He wasn’t suffering from Alzheimers’ – just “ordinary” dementia, but it was just as bad. After my mother took ill he had to go into a nursing home, a very nice one and fortunately just around the corner from their house. For the next year my mother spent every afternoon with him but then her cancer returned and she died. After that he went downhill and my heart broke everytime I went down to visit. For a time he would still recognise me and my brother but when he didn’t anymore we knew he wouldn’t be here much longer. And so it went. There was nothing we could do – we visited as often as possible but he just slid away further and further. I do believe, however, that even when the conscious mind can no longer speak there is still something that you can relate to. But it is hard and it is painful. I wish you and your father all the best.

    I appreciate the good wishes. You know exactly how it feels to watch this happen.

  33. catherine says:

    just had to pop in and wish you courage as you accompany your dad on the next phase of his life’s journey. wow, that sounded so new age! *windchimes tinkle in the background* seriously, the only thing that helped marginally when my dad was going was being around babies! so get yourself some babies, and know that we are all thinking of you!

    That’s part of the reason we’re moving back to the Midwest. We’ll be within driving distance, and he can see my daughters.

  34. Roland Allard says:

    I’ve had a lot of experience with alzheimers; I had three sisters that passed on with alzheimers. I too am diabetic 73 and have been retired since 1990 because of an on the job accident. I moved to colorado with my wife in 2004, big reason being she also had alzheimers, andwe wanted to be near our daughter and we at least could see our grandchildren partially grow up. My wife passed on in January 2010 and I miss her more than one can imagine; When she was first diagnosed wit alsheimers there was no mention of diabetes, she was only diagnozed in mid 2009.I’ve had my diabetes since 1988; when I discovered I had it, I immediately cut way back on eating carbs , I’ve lost 27lbs since then , down to 130lbs but I have neuropathy which can be caused by high sugar readins. Like a fool my doctor said I could increas my sugar readings and I took him at his word and I pigged out . my next checkup everything was off kilter; I have since brought everything back and passed my check up with flying collors, but I learned a lesson. I do excercise for my neuropathy wach my carbs very carefully and just hoping to beat diabetes. I do also think that I have discovered something that I think can slow down the progress of alzheimer’s

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