Alzheimer's disease typically strikes adults age 65 and over. Cognitive decline currently affects 5.2 million Americans and 30 million individuals all over the world. The future is especially bleak, with 16 million Americans over 65 projected to experience cognitive decline by 2050. In the absence of new developments that offer a cure or at the very least, slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease, the tipping point of our Medicare system may finally be reached, causing its annihilation.
Alzheimer's disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. Women have a greater chance of developing Alzheimer's disease than they do breast cancer, but there is a great disparity in research funding, with less funds allotted to Alzheimer's disease. Typically, Alzheimer's disease is treated with one or at the most two types of drugs classed as Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. These include brand names such as Aricept and Exelon.
Why Explore Non-Pharmacological Treatment for Alzheimer's disease?
There is currently no drug or combination of drugs that can cure, or even demonstrate that they can slow down, the progression of Alzheimer's disease. The effect that drugs have on the disease is negligible. Alzheimer's disease drug research costing billions of dollars has been conducted in the past decade, unsuccessfully.
Years of extensive genetic and biochemical research has also been conducted, which indicated that while Alzheimer's disease drug treatment alone does not appear to have a measurable effect on the disease, using a multiple therapeutic approach may successfully halt or even reverse memory loss as a result of Alzheimer's disease.
On the MEND?
Dale E. Bredesen, a UCLA researcher, led a personalized, therapeutic trial based on treating memory loss by solely using exercise, a change in diet, selected vitamin supplements and ensuring an adequate amount of sleep.
The patients who took part in the trial, called MEND (Metabolic Enhancement for Neurodegeneration), all had some level of memory loss. Some exhibited patterns of Alzheimer's disease, established by a brain scan.
What’s the Difference Between “Traditional” Pharmacological Treatments and the MEND trial?
What does the non-pharmacological treatment consist of?
· First, participants changed their diet, avoiding simple carbs
o These are food items such as cake, candy, certain fruits and soda
o Gluten was avoided, as were processed foods, and participants were encouraged to increase fish intake.
· The practice of yoga and meditation were introduced.
· Melatonin, vitamin B-12, vitamin D-3 and fish oil were added to participants’ diets.
· Getting a good night’s sleep was strongly suggested.
The result of these changes were quantifiable improvements to memory with six months by nine study individuals; the exception was the participant who had begun the trial while in the later stages of Alzheimer's disease and experienced no improvement.
CASE STUDIES OF TWO PARTICIPANTS
Patient One: History and Summary of Results
A 67-year-old woman had experienced two years of progressive memory loss. She was in a challenging job that involved the analysis of data, preparation of reports and extensive travel. She was unable to remember material that she had just read and was no longer able to remember a series of four digit numbers. She couldn’t find her way around town or even her own home, for that matter. The woman was suicidal because she was following in the footsteps of her mother, who had spent years in a nursing home as a result of cognitive impairment.
The woman was despondent and called a friend, talking about suicide. Her friend suggested that she be evaluated. After three months of following specific lifestyle and dietary protocols, she was able to navigate around town and her home, remember a series of numbers without a problem, write reports and was considered asymptomatic. At the time the study results became public, the woman, now 70 years of age, continued to work successfully full-time.
Patient Two: History and Summary of Results
A 69-year-old man with a successful career demonstrated 11 years of progressive memory loss, albeit slow. At age 58 he noted significant changes in his daily life such as the inability to recognize familiar faces at work and the inability to rapidly and correctly add columns of numbers in his head, among other activities.
Six months after beginning the therapeutic program, his family and co-workers noted that his decline had stopped and he was able to continue his activities at the same level he had reached prior to changing his lifestyle by participating to the program.
Results realized by 9 of the 10 participants in this study suggest that memory loss in patients may be reversed, at least in the early phase of Alzheimer's disease, and that improvement may be sustained with the therapeutic program described.
Researchers propose that the findings support changes in an individual’s metabolic process, returning their cognitive as well as memory functions to levels prior to the trial. Prior to the start of the trial, six out of the 10 participants were having great difficulty adequately performing at their jobs or found it necessary to stop working.
Post-trial, all six either returned to work or found that their performance had vastly improved. What’s more, by following the protocol two and one-half years from the initial trial, improvement was steady and noteworthy.
Although these results are anecdotal, they are promising; researchers are planning a larger, controlled clinical trial.