Science does not mind when it is proven wrong. It simply seeks a new theory. Truthfully, science is always seeking new theories. The prevailing theory regarding Alzheimer’s disease has been that it is caused by an accumulation of sticky plaques in the brain. It turns out that the source of the plaques may be causing an imbalance between the brain’s memory-making and memory-breaking functions, one that is in favor of memory loss.
Dr. Dale Bredesen is the Augustus Rose Professor of Neurology at UCLA, director of UCLA’s Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and founding president of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in northern California. The subtitle to his controversial book, The End of Alzheimer’s, is “The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline.” Within, Dr. Bredesen presents evidence that challenges the status quo regarding Alzheimer’s treatment and recommends a new therapeutic approach.
Drug trials aimed at toxicity caused by the sticky plaques have failed. Bredesen’s research suggests that the disease is caused by an imbalance in nerve cell signaling. While certain signals foster nerve connections and memory making, others counteract those signals by supporting memory breaking, allowing irrelevant information to be forgotten. It is possible that Alzheimer’s disrupts this balance. The cause of the disturbance may very well be the same peptide that causes the plaques.
Bredesen’s innovative approach is comprised of an intensive program of diet, proper sleep, specific supplements, strategic fasting and stress reduction. Out of 10 Alzheimer’s disease patients to participate in his program, nine showed improvement. Those who were still working and struggling with memory loss could return to work and showed improvement in their performance. Patients are still thriving several years after the fact.
Of course, a mere ten patients may not be enough to sway skeptics. As of mid-January, however, that number has increased to 50. Let’s have a closer look at Bredesen’s prescribed measures:
- Diet – The program eliminates processed foods. It boosts intake of fruits, vegetables and healthy fish.
- Sleep – The recommended duration is still the standard eight hours.
- Supplements – Attention is given to gastrointestinal health, in the form of probiotics and prebiotics.
- Fasting – The goal is to keep insulin levels healthy. Twelve hours are recommended between dinner and breakfast. Between dinner and bedtime, fasting should last for three hours or more.
- Stress reduction – Meditation, yoga or listening to music are all recommended means of stress reduction.
Exercising four to six times a week and even maintaining good oral hygiene are included in the program. Who could argue with that? Alzheimer’s experts have not abandoned plaque-based theories and approaches. However, the more than 5 million Americans living with disease, not to mention their families, still must know that all avenues are being explored.