We are in an fast growing epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease and to date, there has been no way to slow it down or to effectively treat those in its path. While strides have been made with many other chronic diseases, virtually no progress has been made with Alzheimer’s.
Although there have been 245 drug trials to date for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, the results have been unproductive with 244 failing to show any benefit with the disease. The two classes of drugs approved currently soften early symptoms for a short period of time but have no impact on the progression or outcome of the disease.
The words of an Alzheimer’s researcher summarizing all of the studies to date perhaps tells this best:
As researchers looked at the disease process and all of the research on what may cause certain people to develop it, some were drawn to a different way of looking at the disease and for its potential solution. One of those has been Dale Bredesen, MD the Director of Neurodegenerative Disease Research, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and founding president and researcher at The Buck Institute for Aging Research.
Examining the extensive research on what is different in those who develop the disease revealed a broad pattern of factors which were more common in those who develop the disease versus those who do not. These factors generally fell into 3 categories; punitive factors, preventative factors and supportive factors. Examples of punitive factors include insulin resistance/chronic high insulin, diabetes, chronic anxiety, depression, chronic inflammation and others. Preventative factors included factors such as diet, exercise, good sleep, regular cognitive exercise, high vitamin/mineral intake, higher omega-3 fatty acid intake and others.
Several studies have looked at the relationship between diet and the disease risk. Of the 80 studies to date that have examined this relationship, 80% of them have confirmed both a preventative effect on the risk of developing Alzheimer’s as well as a positive effect on slowing the rate of disease progression. However, no single study has shown that diet is a complete solution. This same “helpful but not complete” has been found with all associated factors.
The important revelation that Dr. Bredesen had in developing his approach was that “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”. For example, adding specific extra nutrients to the optimum diet does more than simply the sum of adding the effects of the two when done separately. The negative effects of mercury toxicity do more harm when added to a nutrient poor status than they do alone.
The Bredesen Protocol examines approximately 40 preventative or supportive factors. Dr. Bredesen describes the process with the analogy of a roof with 36 holes and deciding which one you would want to fix to stop the rain from coming in. The only functional answer is all of them. The individual’s specific pattern of imbalances is used to implement a specific and targeted treatment protocol for that individual.
My interest in this program began over the past 2 decades reading all of the pieces of research in this area and seeing many older patients struggle with this dreaded process. The pattern was becoming obvious that modifiable and often lifestyle related interventions would be an important future for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s.
It all came together reading the results of the first case series using the MEND, or Bredesen Protocol, and I was off to the Buck Institute for Aging Research for training from Dr. Bredesen and his research associates. Now we have some hope in an area that was devoid of it only 6 or 7 years ago.