I’ve mentioned this story a couple of times before, but given the topic of this post, it bears repeating:

The Older Brother and I had a conversation some years back as our dad was fading from Alzheimer’s.  The Older Brother noted that while our great-grandfather was sharp until nearly age 100, our grandmother developed Alzheimer’s in her 80s, and our dad had (in retrospect) started succumbing in his late 60s.  Seeing the progression, The Older Brother said, “Well, we’re screwed.”  (That’s the family-friendly version of his analysis.)

I replied that Alzheimer’s is probably a form of diabetes, not a genetic destiny.  We can avoid or delay it for decades by eating a good diet.

Turns out a good diet might even reverse the condition to an impressive degree.  Here’s part of the abstract of a 2014 pilot program published in the journal Aging:

This report describes a novel, comprehensive, and personalized therapeutic program that is based on the underlying pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease, and which involves multiple modalities designed to achieve metabolic enhancement for neurodegeneration (MEND). The first 10 patients who have utilized this program include patients with memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), or subjective cognitive impairment (SCI). Nine of the 10 displayed subjective or objective improvement in cognition beginning within 3-6 months, with the one failure being a patient with very late stage AD.

Six of the patients had had to discontinue working or were struggling with their jobs at the time of presentation, and all were able to return to work or continue working with improved performance. Improvements have been sustained, and at this time the longest patient follow-up is two and one-half years from initial treatment, with sustained and marked improvement.

Sustained and marked improvement?  Six of 10 patients able to return to work?  Why wasn’t this all over the news?!  Perhaps because there’s no miracle drug involved.  The therapeutic program employed here was mostly about diet and other lifestyle changes.

The paper opens with a long discussion of the biology of Alzheimer’s and the history (not an impressive one) of drug therapies.  Let’s skip those and get into the therapies employed with these patients.  Here are two examples:

Patient One

A 67-year-old woman presented with two years of progressive memory loss. She held a demanding job that involved preparing analytical reports and traveling widely, but found herself no longer able to analyze data or prepare the reports, and therefore was forced to consider quitting her job. She noted that when she would read, by the time she reached the bottom of a page she would have to start at the top once again, since she was unable to remember the material she had just read.

She was no longer able to remember numbers, and had to write down even 4-digit numbers to remember them. She also began to have trouble navigating on the road: even on familiar roads, she would become lost trying to figure out where to enter or exit the road. She also noticed that she would mix up the names of her pets, and forget where the light switches were in her home of years.

Sounds a lot like my dad around the same age.  Long before we realized he was suffering from Alzheimer’s, my mom complained to me that my dad just wanted to vegetate in front of the TV at night and didn’t read anymore – which seemed odd, given that he used to devour books and could quote facts from them years after reading them.  His driving also became so erratic, we had to talk him into giving it up before he killed someone.  Later, of course, we realized he’d stopped reading because he couldn’t remember what he’d just read.

Here’s the therapy for Patient One:

As noted above, and following an extended discussion of the components of the therapeutic program, the patient began on some but not all of the system: (1) she eliminated all simple carbohydrates, leading to a weight loss of 20 pounds; (2) she eliminated gluten and processed food from her diet, and increased vegetables, fruits, and non-farmed fish; (3) in order to reduce stress, she began yoga, and ultimately became a yoga instructor; (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 0.5mg po qhs; (6) she increased her sleep from 4-5 hours per night to 7-8 hours per night; (7) she took methylcobalamin 1mg each day; (8) she took vitamin D3 2000IU each day; (9) she took fish oil 2000mg each day; (10) she took CoQ10 200mg 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 HRT (hormone replacement therapy) that had been discontinued following the WHI report in 2002; (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.

No simple carbs.  Ditch the gluten.  Exercising, some over-the-counter supplements, more sleep and more exercise.  Now here are the results:

She began System 1.0, and was able to adhere to some but not all of the protocol components. Nonetheless, after three months she noted that all of her symptoms had abated: she was able to navigate without problems, remember telephone numbers without difficulty, prepare reports and do all of her work without difficulty, read and retain information, and, overall, she became asymptomatic. She noted that her memory was now better than it had been in many years. On one occasion, she developed an acute viral illness, discontinued the program, and noticed a decline, which reversed when she reinstated the program. Two and one-half years later, now age 70, she remains asymptomatic and continues to work full-time.

Big Pharma, eat your hearts out.  No drug has come close to those results.

Let’s look at one more case history.  Here’s what the paper says about Patient Two:

A 69-year-old entrepreneur and professional man presented with 11 years of slowly progressive memory loss, which had accelerated over the past one or two years. In 2002, at the age of 58, he had been unable to recall the combination of the lock on his locker, and he felt that this was out of the ordinary for him…. He noted that he had progressive difficulty recognizing the faces at work (prosopagnosia), and had to have his assistants prompt him with the daily schedule. He also recalled an event during which he was several chapters into a book before he finally realized that it was a book he had read previously. In addition, he lost an ability he had had for most of his life: the ability to add columns of numbers rapidly in his head.

Here’s his therapy:

The patient began on the following parts of the overall therapeutic system: (1) he fasted for a minimum of three hours between dinner and bedtime, and for a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast; (2) he eliminated simple carbohydrates and processed foods from his diet; (3) he increased consumption of vegetables and fruits, and limited consumption of fish to non-farmed, and meat to occasional grass-fed beef or organic chicken; (4) he took probiotics; (5) he took coconut oil i tsp bid; (6) he exercised strenuously, swimming 3-4 times per week, cycling twice per week, and running once per week; (7) he took melatonin 0.5mg po qhs, and tried to sleep as close to 8 hours per night as his schedule would allow; (8) he took herbs Bacopa monniera 250mg, Ashwagandha 500mg, and turmeric 400mg each day; (9) he took methylcobalamin 1mg, methyltetrahydrofolate 0.8mg, and pyridoxine-5-phosphate 50mg each day; (10) he took citicoline 500mg po bid; (11) he took vitamin C 1g per day, vitamin D3 5000IU per day, vitamin E 400IU per day, CoQ10 200mg per day, Zn picolinate 50mg per day, and α-lipoic acid 100mg per day; (12) he took DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) 320mg and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) 180mg per day.

And his results:

He began on the therapeutic program, and after six months, his wife, co-workers, and he all noted improvement. He lost 10 pounds. He was able to recognize faces at work unlike before, was able to remember his daily schedule, and was able to function at work without difficulty. He was also noted to be quicker with his responses. His life-long ability to add columns of numbers rapidly in his head, which he had lost during his progressive cognitive decline, returned. His wife pointed out that, although he had clearly shown improvement, the more striking effect was that he had been accelerating in his decline over the prior year or two, and this had been completely halted.

Ditch the processed foods, eat real foods.  Exercise and get enough sleep.  Take some supplements to replace the nutrients that were plentiful in hunter-gatherer diets, but are missing in modern diets.  Next thing you know, the guy can add columns of numbers in his head again.

I think we’re seeing why Alzheimer’s was rare in hunter-gatherer societies.  It isn’t some harsh sentence handed down by fate or genes.  It’s a condition caused by (in many cases, anyway) the same garbage diet that makes people fat and diabetic.

So no, I don’t believe The Older Brother and I will succumb to the disease that caused our dad to fade away in front of our eyes.  I expect to be blogging and making wisecracks at age 97 … with The Older Brother sitting in when I need a vacation.

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75 Responses to “A Non-Drug Treatment For Alzheimer’s”
  1. Maria J says:

    Tom, thanks for this post. From the link I was able to see one of the presenters of this study or program is Dale Bredesen of the Buck Institute in California. Not too long ago I watched a video of Dr. Perlmutter speaking to a large group there then a discussion following with Dr. Bredesen. It was an impressive presentation. The wisdom of crowds strikes and spreads again. Always delighted when I check for a new post on Thursday night.

  2. Al says:

    ” I expect to be blogging and making wisecracks at age 97 … with The Older Brother sitting in when I need a vacation.”
    From your lips to G-d’s ears.

  3. Dianne says:

    Wow — I wish this knowledge had been available years ago, back when my husband first started getting lost in familiar places and scared himself into retirement by forgetting the names of common items he used in his work. He was diagnosed with AD in 2008, but we were getting pretty worried several years earlier, and he has now has reached the point where he does not know me, forgets his own name, and cannot remember how to shave, take care of his teeth, or perform just about any of the other tasks of daily living. And this was the bright, witty guy who had the most phenomenal memory of anyone I’ve ever known, and who even now looks many years younger than he actually is. (Maybe because he worked out regularly from age 15.) If there were anything left to fight for I’d be in there fighting, but there just isn’t.

    But this offers hope to at least some of those in the earlier stages of the disease, and it most likely offers the rest of us a recipe for avoiding AD. The problem’s going to be getting the medical profession to offer it to their patients, and getting a media driven by advertising dollars to put the news out there and keep it before the public’s eye.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I feel you. What I wouldn’t give for a time machine so I could go back to when my dad was 65. I’d probably still be playing golf with him.

      • Dianne says:

        And who would be winning? I sure hope they have golf in Heaven — otherwise, my dad probably refused to go in.

      • JillOz says:

        Tom, we don’t always need a time machine. We need people who are willing to try these basic solutions, that can still be a bit complex, to cure themselves.

        Plenty of people taking garbage who won’t try stuff that works because they worship Doctor Whosists who tells them to take statins etc.

        In addition, supplements are seldom subsidised so the solution can still be quite expensive – not as expensive as a nursing home though!

  4. Anand Srivastava says:

    Ditch the processed foods, eat real foods. Exercise and get enough sleep. Take some supplements to replace the nutrients that were plentiful in hunter-gatherer diets, but are missing in modern diets.

    I think you are missing the most important thing in the protocol. The 12 hours fast between breakfast and dinner and the 3 hour fast before sleep.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I’d put “no processed foods” at the top spot.

    • Phillis Hammond says:

      Just to clarify, it was 12 hours fasting between DINNER and BREAKFAST not the other way around. The 3 hour fasting between dinner and bedtime is part of the 12+ hour fasting window. I misread it myself the first time and suddenly realized that something was wrong because the math didn’t work.

  5. SWOT says:

    In other words, lower your cortisol and your insulin. who would have thought?

  6. Bryan Harris says:

    I used to be able to read all the time, but I got progressively worse without noticing. Then at age thirty I started having huge issues just like what these people were having. I’d read the same sentence about ten times and then give up. I don’t think I read a book from age 33 to 35; if I did, it was a struggle.

    One thing that would help, strangely, was pacing around the room while reading. I have no idea why but it would keep my brain on task. The other thing has been the IF and the fish oils. The quality ones with a little EPA/DHA in a good ratio seem to help more than anything else. My theory has been that they are just thinner oils and reduce inflammation.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Interesting about the pacing. I do that when I’m writing and get stuck.

      • JillOz says:

        Martin Amis said that writing was in getting up from the desk – or something similar!

      • Bob Weaver says:

        I swear, any time I’m trying to solve a hard math problem, I pace. It’s both a compulsion and an aid to mental focus. Something like keeping the body busy with something automatic like walking, so that the thinking part of the brain suffers no distractions.
        My 83 year-old uncle recently passed away with Alzheimer’s. I say died “with”, not “of” Alzheimer’s, because I think it was the psych drugs that killed him.
        Thanks for the post.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          Same when I’m stuck on a programming problem. That’s when I get up from my desk and take a little walk around the office.

          Sorry to hear about your uncle.

  7. Jimmy Moore says:

    Sounds like therapeutic ketosis. Now where have I heard about that before? ? Dr. Mary Newport has done sensational work in this field: http://www.thelivinlowcarbshow.com/shownotes/10612/850-dr-mary-newport-keto-clarity-expert-interview/

  8. Stephen Blackbourn says:

    Using the same dietary protocols, I hope to still be riding my unicycle at 97.

    (Better start learning soon).

  9. Organic Chemist says:

    As much as like the results, this is classic junk science, tiny test group, no control group, 10+ variables. Is there any actual data to support the horrors of process food or the wonders of grass-feed beef or is this just another quasi-religious belief system like veganism?

    • Tom Naughton says:

      If you’re a chemist, I would assume you already understand why processed foods are a problem. I also don’t see why the lack of a control group is such a problem here. Have you ever heard of 10 Alzheimer’s patients achieving these results? Can any drug trial show results like these?

    • Bill says:

      I’m a scientist ergo I am super]or and can pontificate. This study, if nothing else,is an interesting correlation. I agree that a lot of things were changed. Doesn’t this, at least, indicate that that something, amongst all these changes helped? At best you are uncharitable at worst too hung up in your own “science’ to even consider a non-patentable pharma based solution to an awful disease. I guess in your world the only solution to type 2 diabetes is chemicals and wholegrain.Your synonym , is,I assume to let us believe that you speak from a position of professional strength. God help us from experts. x is an unknown, a spurt is a drip under pressure.

      • Dan says:

        In all fairness, I think Organic Chemist, in his/her first sentence, has a point. We are all quick to point out weak science when the shoe is on the other (Vegan) foot. While double-blind placebo controls may not be feasible for certain variables, proper testing of a hypothesis requires at least a large subject group and an equally large control group and testing only one variable at a time. Alzheimer’s and other age-related dementias are, to say the least, an incredibly devastating pathology in our society. We should leave no stone unturned in our effort to defeat them. It may never come to pass, but I’d love to see a properly funded study that put a large number of patients with early cognitive impairment on a LCHF diet vs a control group on SAD for 2+ years and see the results.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          Sure, I agree with the basic point. But when a group of 10 people adopt a diet/supplement program and show improvements never seen in any of the many drug trials — improvements most doctors will tell you can’t happen — I think it’s silly to dismiss the results because there wasn’t a control group. Are we really supposed to believe a control group of 10 people who didn’t adopt the program might spontaneously improve to the same degree?

        • Bill says:

          Please show me something that doesn’t have an element of junk science in this grant/ sponsership based ‘science ‘ age. Too much analysis of poor data (analysis = paralysis it used to be said). Results that are really just delving around in the noise of the ‘experiment’. Meta analysis of bad statistical studies show us, almost always nothing. Epidemiological studies are always trying to find the smoking gun but quite frankly since the smoking can lead to lung cancer what has there been that has really correlated anything that would lead anyone to a decent conclusion?

          Dan is right and so is Organic Chemist, there needs to be a decent experiment, It will be costly and, refferring to my earlier comment regarding funding- who will do it? I have heard in the past that there could be no long term studies regarding the level of saturated fat in the diet as it would be ‘unethical’. I think the experiment of the last forty years with low fat high carbohydrate might tell us something about unethical experiments. Of course we could recruit all the low carb eaters around the world examine their dietary habits look at their progress and do a giant meta analysis of millions of n=1 studies!

    • Bob Weaver says:

      Absolute hogwash.

      Not only is this science, it is the best kind of science, a possible discovery based on actual observation of individual results, nuances included. No averages or test of statistical significance. They state the rationale for a new therapy. They try it on ten people, it succeeds beyond anything that’s been tried before. They don’t claim generality. They recommend further trials in the hope that these results can be repeated on a larger scale.

      Are they lying about the results? Are they mistaken about the facts? Obviously not. This is a report on 10 clinical cases. Plus a hypothesis. Are they claiming that the science of AD is settled? No. Read the paper, it’s all there.

      So, where is the junk science? Is someone going to come forward, blow the whistle and reveal that Mr Bredesen & Co actually made the case reports up and the patients are now wetting their diapers as normal, well-behaved, progressively deteriorating ones do?

      Blast, if Mr organic chemist thinks he knows about science, he ought to try a dose of AD reality first. His kind of science not only leaves something out of medicine (the actual, individual patient getting a damned randomized placebo instead of the desperately needed relief), it kills thousands, possibly millions. Junk science indeed.

      Go ahead, do randomized trials on strange quarks and fruit flies. In the case of sick patients, try stuff intelligently while doing no harm and report the results.

      Mr chemist, if faced with AD in yourself or a loved one, knowing what you have read (you’ve read it, right?), what junk science would you try first?

  10. Bob Niland says:

    In addition to grain-free LCHF diet attentive to DHA&EPA and a bunch of other micronutrients commonly deficient in modern diet, keep an eye on autopsy result papers.

    I’ve noted reports showing high correlations with both Borrelia (Lyme) and fungus. Keeping the blood-brain-barrier tight is crucial (grain-free is a huge factor on that). Optimizing microbiome might also be prophylactic here (to the extent that we know how).

    Thyroid is another possible target, with AD correlations. Hypothyroid is pandemic, mis-tested, mis-diagnosed and mis-treated by the Standard of Care. Anyone with a TSH over 1.4 mIU/L needs to get some actual thyroid tests like fT3, fT4, rT3 & TA, learn what target values matter, not to mention what to do about it.

    And what the heck, why not opportunistically minimize exposure to non-native aluminum compounds and elemental aluminum, particularly in things taken internally.

  11. Pierre says:

    Alzheimer’s Disease Is Type 3 Diabetes–Evidence Reviewed

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2769828/

    The prevention is simple, eat real food.

  12. Janknitz says:

    I’ve been trying to find out how important the estrogen replacement is to this regimen in women. I have elected not to take HRT because I feel great without it, but this has made me question that decision, and I can’t get a knowledgeable discussion from my health care providers about estrogen’s impact on dementia.

    My mother and grandmother both had severe Alzheimer’s so I feel like I’m right in the crosshairs, too.

  13. Firebird says:

    Why limit yourself to 97 years? 😉

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I was probably feeling pessimistic when I wrote it. Maybe I’ll retire from blogging at 97 and spend the next 10 years traveling.

  14. Walter Bushell says:

    And coconut oil first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

    Oily to rise and oily to bed.

    (I’ve waited years to say that.)

  15. Namu says:

    You’re right, Tom, this should be all over the news… it’s such a shame it won’t.

  16. Carolyn Jorgensen Potter says:

    “Alzheimer’s Solved” by Henry Lorin says it is caused by an insufficient amount of dietary fat to the elderly brain.

    I am condensing 300 pages of the book into one sentence there. Eat your eggs and butter, and don’t throw out the grease. And DON’T get on statins.

  17. Nowhereman10 says:

    You know what, even though they are two different diseases, this is remarkably very similar in progression and in treatment to what Dr. Terry Wahls describes happened to her and curing her Progressive MS. Are the headlines screaming about her? No. Is here a miracle drug involved? No. Nope not at all, just changing lifestyle and eating good food, real food.

    Is it any wonder that the old treatment for what is now known as Type 2 Diabetes was cutting simple sugar (carbs), eating meat and vegetables?

    Is it any wonder that at least some cancers can be starved into remission by a ketogenic diet?

    This is all shown in clinical studies time and again, but no big headlines.

    Hmmmm, I wonder…

    • Tom Naughton says:

      If someone could make billions by selling the “miracle food” cure, we’d probably see those headlines.

      • Dianne says:

        I’d like to see a top-quality anti-Alzheimer’s dietary supplement combining the various supplements recommended by this study. I already take quite a few of them on the recommendation of my chiropractor, and by the time I finish swallowing pills in the morning I practically rattle. One good thing, though — it sure rehydrates me!

  18. Linda says:

    This post almost made me cry! It’s a great post! My mother began to show signs of dementia/maybe Alzheimers, and I practically pitched a rant with my parents about diet. My mother, who was a brilliant pipe organist, had begun to not know the registers of the organ or the stops. I remember sitting with her at a four register pipe organ in a cathedral to turn pages for her when she played the Messiah at Christmas! It was driving me nuts to see her fade! My father was dead set against everything I said, but …. She actually listened to me and changed her diet. Result- she improved and was still teaching organ and piano students at age 90! She died at 91 of an unrelated ailment.

    Now, I have a favorite aunt who thinks her doctor is God and takes a damn heavy amount of statins. One year ago, we could go out to eat and enjoy it and laugh! She was just great! Now, her daughter will not change her diet and will not let her quit the statins, and she doesn’t know who I am!

    Whatever you do, Tom, keep up the great work! I forward these blogs on to people who desperately need them.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Good on you for convincing your mother. Some folks can’t be convinced, unfortunately. They think anyone wearing a white coat must be divine. All we can do is put the information out there.

    • Walter Bushell says:

      So this man gets to Heaven and finds it falling apart. He asks an old timer why and the old timers says, “See that man over there?, He really is God, but he’s convinced he’s a doctor.

  19. Lori Miller says:

    It might not be important, or even possible, to tease out which factor is the most important. It’s hard to eat right and exercise if you’re exhausted from a lack of sleep. It’s hard to fast if you’re not eating right. Take one supplement, and you might not have the cofactors to digest it.

    Remember other magic bullets like Mozart for babies and red wine for heart disease and tons of fruits and vegetables for whatever ails you? If any of those work, it’s in the context of being middle-class, being French, or being young and health-conscious. In other words, they’re all part of various collections of habits that make up healthy or successful lifestyles.

  20. joe says:

    I enjoy this blog a lot but always wondered if it would still be around 50 years from now. Now I think it has a shot.

  21. Frank Mason says:

    Those Alzheimers symptoms are exacly the same as the known side effects of the blood pressure medications my father was prescribed in his late fifties. I’d love to know what, if any studies have been done to investigate the relationship between drugs for blood pressure, statins and other commonly prescribed drugs, and the dementia epidemic.

  22. Ulfric Douglas says:

    Linda ; “I have a favorite aunt who thinks her doctor is God and takes a damn heavy amount of statins”
    That’s what my own mother died of : Doktor-worship.
    Statins, Alzheimer’s, insanity, frozen, death.

    I’m worried that I don’t take any supplements at all 🙁 should I?

    • Tom Naughton says:

      No easy answer for that. People I trust say the soil doesn’t provide the nutrients it once did, so we’re better off with a few supplements: multivitamin, CoQ10, magnesium.

    • Walter Bushell says:

      God takes “a damn heavy amount of statins”?!

      That would explain a lot, especially if God is on a vegan diet.

    • Walter Bushell says:

      What percentage of the population act like they have very early demential and how could you tell? How many congress critters could get Alzheimer’s and no one would be the wiser? ISTR, that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court could not give the oath to an incoming President and the Justice was allowed to keep his post.

  23. Bonnie says:

    Could you do an easy-to-understand post on CoQ10? When my husband was taking statins we hadn’t heard of it. When he quit the statin about 2 or 3 years ago we heard of it & he took it for a while. He quit because we didn’t know if it was really necessary & it’s pricey. He’s 81 & doing well (he’s outside right now working on the new barn), but I’ve been noticing a decline in some of his mental abilities. He still drives some, but not when I’m in the car – his driving can be a bit erratic.

  24. Beccolina says:

    Amy Berger, who blogs at Tuit Nutrition, has a book out on this–The Alzheimer’s Antidote. There’s a lot to back it up.

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