Healthy Diet & Nutrition

Study: Personalized Therapy May Combat Alzheimer’s

A personalized, multi-pronged approach involving diet and lifestyle changes may be effective in combating Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders, according to researchers from UCLA.

The investigators cautioned that because the study was so small – there were only 10 participants – further research is needed. But nine of the subjects showed improvement in their memories within three to six months after beginning treatment. The one patient who had been diagnosed with late-stage Alzheimer’s didn’t improve.

Six of the patients had either stopped working or had been struggling with their jobs, but either returned to their job or continued working. Even more encouraging: the improvements have been maintained. The patient who’s been in treatment the longest has been getting the therapy for two and a half years.
The subjects showed a variety of cognitive disorders, memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease, amnestic mild cognitive impairment or subjective cognitive impairment (in which the patient reports cognitive problems).

The study, conducted Dr. Dale Bredesen of the UCLA Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, is the first to indicate that memory loss could be reversed and sustained using a 36-point program that includes diet changes, brain stimulation, exercise, drugs and vitamins.

The program is based on earlier scientific research, which has found that a network of molecular interactions is involved in the development of Alzheimer’s. “That suggested that a broader-based therapeutic approach, rather than a single drug that aims at a single target, may be…potentially more effective for the treatment of cognitive decline due to Alzheimer’s,” Bredesen said.

“The existing Alzheimer’s drugs affect a single target, but Alzheimer’s disease is more complex. Imagine having a roof with 36 holes in it, and your drug patched one hole very well/ The drug may have worked, and a single hole may have been fixed, but you still have 35 other leaks, and so the underlying process may not be affected much.”

His approach is tailored to the patient, who undergoes extensive testing to determine what is affecting the brain’s “signaling network,” which deteriorates or fails because of cognitive disorders. In the case of one patient who was forgetting her way home, Bredesen said, her therapy consisted of

*eliminating all simple carbohydrates, gluten and processed food from her diet, and eating more vegetables, fruits and non-farmed fish

*meditating twice a day and beginning yoga to reduce stress

*sleeping seven to eight hours per night, up from four to five

*taking melatonin, methylcobalamin, vitamin D3, fish oil and coenzyme Q10 each day

*using an electric flosser and electric toothbrush

*reinstating hormone replacement therapy, which had previously been discontinued

*fasting for a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, and for a minimum of three hours between dinner and bedtime

*exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes, four to six days per week

*The downside of the program, the researchers said, is its complexity. None of the patients stuck to the entire program. The most common reasons given were the diet and lifestyle changes, and the number of pills taken daily.

Bredesen said the program’s downsides are its complexity and that the burden falls on patients and caregivers to follow it. In the study, none of the patients was able to stick to the entire protocol. Their most common complaints were the diet and lifestyle changes, and having to take multiple pills each day.

The good news, though, said Bredesen, “It is noteworthy that the major side effects of this therapeutic system are improved health and an improved body mass index, a stark contrast to the side effects of many drugs.”

The study was published in the journal Aging.

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