California researchers, using a complicated therapeutic program, reversed memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s for the first time, according to a report (pdf) published in the online journal Aging.
“I think we will look back on this as being the first report that really starts research down the correct road to finding answers to dementing diseases,” Dr. David Jones, president of the Institute for Functional Medicine in Federal Way, told the Marin Independent Journal.
Ten patients participated in a 36-point program tailored to their individual circumstances. It involved exercise, diet changes, brain stimulation, sleep optimization, drugs and vitamins. Nine of the 10 patients showed improvement within three to six months. Six who had stopped working because of Alzheimer’s effects were able to return to their jobs. One patient with late stage Alzheimer’s did not improve.
Although the complex program would be impossible to effectively execute on a mass scale outside a clinical setting, it offered the possibility that memory erosion among sufferer’s of the affliction is not permanent.
The report’s author, UCLA neurology Professor Dale E. Bredesen, conducted the small study with the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Bredesen acknowledged that the findings were largely anecdotal, but said they were “very encouraging” and called for more elaborate clinical trials.
“The existing Alzheimer’s drugs affect a single target, but Alzheimer’s disease is more complex,” Bredesen told Mark Wheeler in the UCLA Newsroom. “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.”
One patient, who had a tough job and was having trouble finding their way home, was put on a regimen that included eliminating all simple carbohydrates, gluten and processed food from her diet. She ate more vegetables, fruits and non-farmed fish and meditated twice a day. Her sleep time was increased from 4-5 hours a night to 7-8 and she exercised 30 minutes a day, 4 to 6 days a week.
She fasted for at least 12 hours between breakfast and dinner and for at least three hours between dinner and bedtime. She restarted hormone replacement therapy, which had been discontinued, and took melatonin, methylcobalamin, vitamin D3, fish oil and coenzyme Q10 daily. She began using an electric toothbrush and flossed a lot more.
None of the patients was able to stick to their routines. But they did well enough that they experienced improved general health and increased body mass, in addition to memory gains.
Approximately 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s. 30 million globally. The incidence of the illness is on the rise and is considered the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., behind cardiovascular disease and cancer.
So far, there are no effective treatment “that exerts anything beyond a marginal, unsustained symptomatic effect, with little or no effect on disease progression,” Bredesen said.