Let’s focus on how to prevent or reduce the effects of cognitive decline. This issue may apply to a family member, or even yourself. After all, every 50 seconds another American is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and it’s a cold, cruel way to die.
When our thinking and memory capacity becomes diminished (by a stroke, trauma, aging or Alzheimer’s), we begin to lose our sense of self, and we frustrate those around us. The good news is that there are some well-researched approaches that can make differences (some mild, and some are dramatic) in brain health. The first thing you can do is…
Follow the Research
First, I am required by law to make a disclaimer: “The following comments are not meant to diagnose or treat any disease, nor have they been approved by the FDA and I am not an MD.” I will stick to the research. Having said that, there is a problem.
Not all Research is Good
This is a very discouraging time for consumers. With all the NEW research and information available, much of it is simply “bad science.” I will do my best to separate bad from good (and that is VERY hard, my friend). Here’s an example of what we are up against.
For decades, The New England Journal of Medicine has been one of the most credible scientific publications. But, Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine, wrote this: “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.” (NY Review of Books, 1/15/09, “Drug Companies & Doctors: A Story of Corruption”)
The U.K. top science journal is the Lancet. Richard Horton, former editor-in-chief of The Lancet, said, “What is medicine’s 5 Sigma?” (5 Sigma is a statistical measure of reliability and validity.) The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.
“Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and obvious conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. The apparent epidemicity of bad research behavior is alarming.” (The Lancet, 4/11/15, Vol 385).
That’s very discouraging for me as a consumer and science junkie. But… do not throw your arms up and say, “nothing’s proven!” Actually, there are some very good findings; it just takes longer to find them.
You might bookmark sites you like on this topic including one of my favorites:
Now, let’s begin with the six essentials for Alzheimer’s prevention.
1. Protect your brain
Make your brain work hard with new learning 3-5 times a week. Upgrade your reading from the “brain-dead” variety to some that are more challenging. Sitting around is a risk factor, learning new and challenging things is better for the brain. Here is a website to take your parents to where they can build their cognitive capacity or at least delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms.
2. Stay Active
Get physical: find ways to stay active (walks, swimming, and yoga are the best). Worry less about WHAT you do for activity and more that you do SOMETHING at all each day. Make it a daily habit.
3. Fish, Wine & Spice
Protective foods reduce inflammation in the brain. Olive oil works well to fight inflammation, and it’s perfect for cooking. A glass of red wine a day is protective (5 glasses is not). Consume other alcohol sparingly.
Cold-water, ocean caught (vs. farm raised) fish (such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and cod) are an excellent source of choline, along with whole-grain cereals, legumes, eggs, meat, and royal jelly (all of which contain both vitamin B5, omega 3s and choline).
Use spices! Curcumin, the bright yellow spice that is a primary ingredient in curry powder, shows great promise against Alzheimer’s disease (29 peer-reviewed studies) due to a variety of actions, including its ability to inhibit and even reverse beta-amyloids. Curry and ginger are both anti-inflammatory brain protective spices.
4. CUT the sugars
Choose greens and proteins over carbs and sugars. The key scientific principle, which forms the basis for these diets, is the relationship between consumption of carbohydrates and the subsequent effect on blood sugar (i.e. blood glucose) and specific hormones.
Open up your pantry and check out every single product that is a carbohydrate. Make a vow to 1) allow them to get used to deplete your carbos completely over time, 2) eat less of them, 3) donate or give them away.
Cut your carbohydrate consumption in HALF. Blood sugar levels in the human body must be maintained in a fairly narrow range to maintain health. High carb diets raise your risk!
5. Stay up on the research
Even though this BrighterBrain Bulletin comes out each month, it only discusses Alzheimer’s once a year. Medicine is not our primary focus. Keep up on the latest discoveries. Earlier, I reminded you to bookmark sites you like on this topic including one of my favorites:
a) Omega-3 fatty acids are neuroprotective during development and aging. With Omega 3 supplements (186 studies), positive effects were observed in some studies with very mild AD, especially for early onset conditions. Get it as fish oil (capsules or liquid.) This non-prescriptive product (fish oil) may be purchased at a health food store or through Amazon.
Our favorite is Pure Antarctic Krill Oil (capsules) with Astaxanthin; Double-Strength with 1000mg of Superba® Krill Oil per liquid soft gel. This product contains the highest levels of Omega 3 on the market.
b) Lipoic acid (available in health food stores) is a naturally occurring cofactor for the mitochondrial enzymes. It has properties which can interfere with the pathogenesis or progression of Alzheimer’s (Maczurek A, Hager K, Kenklies M, Sharman M, Martins R, Engel J, Carlson DA, Münch G. 2008).
c) Small doses of lithium. At last count, 283 studies found suggest lithium may be a neuroprotective agent (available in tablet form at health food stores), and it has been shown to reduce the rate of dementia and AD. (Wada A, Yokoo H, Yanagita T, Kobayashi H. 2005).
d) CoQ10 is widely available and very well tolerated with minimal adverse effects, making it an attractive potential therapy. Phase III trials of high-dose CoQ10 in large sample sizes are needed to ascertain further or confirm the effects of CoQ10 in neurodegenerative diseases, but early indications look promising (Kumar A, Singh A. 2015, 24, 206). It is available in health food stores.
e) The hormone melatonin (available in tablet form at health food stores) may be effective against the famous and pesky plaques found in AD patients. Melatonin interacts with amyloid beta and inhibits its aggregation (Maya Vetencourt JF, Sale A, Viegi A, Baroncelli L, De Pasquale R, O’Leary OF, Castre, E, & Maffei L., 2008). This hormone (which also regulates sleep) is protective against Alzheimer’s.
f) The yellow pigment found in turmeric, which is also responsible for the majority of its medicinal properties, is called curcumin. Curcumin has strong anti-inflammatory properties. One recent study said, “Curcumin inhibits the formation and promotes the disaggregation of amyloid-β plaques, attenuates the hyperphosphorylation of tau and enhances its clearance, binds copper, lowers cholesterol, modifies microglial activity, inhibits acetylcholinesterase, mediates the insulin signaling pathway, and is an antioxidant.
“In conclusion, curcumin has the potential to be more efficacious than current treatments. However, its usefulness as a therapeutic agent may be hindered by its low bioavailability.” In short, while it is a wonder preventative compound, it is more likely to need other agents (e.g black pepper is one) to help absorption. (Tang & Taghibiglou, 2017). Ensure you activate turmeric by heating it up, boost turmeric’s absorption by combining it with some freshly ground black pepper and mix with a healthy fat to bypass the liver.
g) One of the most proven interventions is galantamine (683 peer-reviewed studies). Galantamine, a natural substance found in certain flowers, has shown strong results in delaying the progression of Alzheimer’s by protecting and enhancing cholinergic function.
Although this intervention is available as an FDA-approved prescription drug for the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, it is also available as the original nutritional supplement. The real deal is a natural product, not one a drug company made into a prescription and the FDA declared a “drug.”
In fact, in quality-controlled, randomized trials, Galantamine studies have documented a consistent, albeit sometimes modest, effect on cognition, behavioral symptoms and activities of daily living (ADLs). Although minor adverse effects have been commonly reported, the products are generally well tolerated and have a favorable safety profile.
Galantamine does NOT cure AD, but a modest effect may make a big difference, especially when it comes to a loved one’s mind or even your own. It is not cheap, but it is WAY better than the alternative. Galantamine capsules are available online without a prescription from Life Enhancement or Amazon.
Any New Alzheimer’s Drugs?
Have you been waiting for a drug, tested by the FDA, to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of Alzheimer’s? A new study shows it might already exist. Here’s what the actual study said:
“The Beta-amyloid plaque area was reduced more than 50% within just 72 hours. Furthermore, bexarotene (the intervention) stimulated the rapid reversal of cognitive, social, and olfactory deficits and improved neural circuit function.” (Cramer, et al., 2012)
“We have successfully reversed all of the known pathological features and behavioral deficits found in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease. Never before has anyone observed clearance of amyloid plaques with such speed in mouse models.” – D Gary Landreth (lead author of study)
So why isn’t the drug out yet? It is (sort of). The drug is called bexarotene in a pill form under the trade name Targretin. Today, it is an FDA-approved treatment for certain lymphoma cancers that attack the body’s immune system.
Bexarotene is also commonly used “off label” to treat other (use your imagination, wink, then nod) illnesses. But another company said, “Okay. If no one else will, we will.” So that’s what happened.
Will there be a new drug soon?
The latest drug, BAN-2401 has gotten our attention. It has Bexarotene. It directly captures the Alzheimer’s beta amyloid plaque as it forms in a person’s brain. That’s an important feature of the Alzheimer’s brain. Just as important, we don’t see this plaque among the oldest senior citizens living independently.
Two companies, Biogen and Eisai, have become each other’s global partners in this discovery. The science is strong, multiple studies confirm it may be a solid treatment that may reverse Alzheimer’s (Habchi, et al. 2016; Rosenthal, Belfort & Isaacson, 2016).
This experimental drug has passed Phase 1 and Phase 2. The FDA said in a recent meeting that there was “sufficient data” to move the orally-administered treatment, E2609, to Phase III testing.
What does that mean to you? Study participants in Phase III area typically 300 to 3,000 volunteers with the disease and the length of study for Alzheimer’s may be anywhere from 1 to 4 years. This is NOT a guarantee that the drug will pass Stage III and go to market.
Some studies suggest that this drug may only have preferential success based on your genetic makeup. That’s a potential snag in the “we want a miracle drug” process (Cummings et al., 2016). In short, do not bank on an Alzheimer’s miracle drug soon. Focus on the other items you can do in this article.
First, I’m not a medical doctor (and if I were, I might be too worried about lawsuits to suggest alternative interventions anyway). That means I am not qualified, nor can I diagnose, prescribe or recommend any specific treatment. Do not take anything based on this newsletter; rather, allow it to inform your decisions based on a wide range of qualified advice.
Having said that, I am qualified to share the science and let you make your own decisions. There are some positive choices above for you to consider. Some may prevent, delay or even reverse Alzheimer’s.
Wishing the best to you.
Eric Jensen, Ph.D.
CEO, Jensen Learning