Sunday, March 20, 2016

Could the Key to Reversing Dementia be Challenging but Attainable?

In 2014, Dale Bredesen, MD published a paper documenting a study of 10 people following a non-pharmaceutical regimen to improve their "memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD), amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), or subjective cognitive impairment (SCI)" (Bredesen 2014). Among the many elements of the regimen, included a low grain diet, 8 hours of sleep nightly, exercise most days of the week, and several over-the-counter supplements.

Let me point out that this is considered an anecdotal study even by Dr. Bredesen, meaning that it was not designed with the scientific rigor of a prospective randomized control trial (RCT).  I discuss RCTs in this post on the positive impact of exercise on your brain health. In his summary, Dr. Bredesen mentions the need for more research in this area, including a controlled trial.

Of the 10 study participants, all of whom exhibited symptoms of memory challenges, 9 of them showed "subjective or objective improvement" after 3-6 months (Bredesen 2014).  Six of the participants who had to exit the workforce because of their condition were able to return to work after treatment. One person of the nine showing improvement never left the workforce and continued to work effectively.  Three of the ten were not working and did not seek employment. The one person who did not show improvement had severe dementia.

The diet described in this novel study sounds very close the Primal Blueprint (PB) diet from Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple.  This lifestyle encourages eating similar to what our ancestors consumed prior to processed foods.  The diet includes wild-caught fish, grass-fed animals and their products, healthy fats, vegetables and fruit, a night's good sleep, and exercise. Of course, there are other popular diets that have a similar sugar-limiting feature.  I just know the most about the PB.

It's March of 2016 and there is no significant treatment for Alzheimer's or related dementias.  I encourage you to bring the article to the attention of your physician and discuss how it may help you.  My hope is that he or she encourages you, given the fact that there are little to no side effects to sleep, exercise, and a diet absent of processed foods.  The no- or low-grain part can still be controversial as well as healthy fats, but I encourage you to do your own research as I have, and choose for yourself.  After all, I am not a dietician.

This lifestyle described in Dr. Bredesen's study is challenging to follow, but I am excited to see how future studies will inform us.  It seems to me that this has the potential to reverse cognitive decline in dementia for some people, and perhaps be a key to prevention or a reduction in risk for many of us.  This has motivated me to modify my eating habits for the past 40 days. Losing excess body fat and feeling better...I'll take these as side effects.
Bredesen, D. E. (2014). Reversal of cognitive decline: A novel therapeutic program. Aging Aging, 6(9), 707-717. 

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In Peace,


Matt Estrade, MBA, CAPS is the Founder and Chief Mentor at Care Partner Mentoring, LLC in Covington/New Orleans, LA, USA. A more extensive biography can be found here.

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