A small study at UCLA has shown evidence that a strict protocol concentrating on lifestyle changes can reverse Alzheimer’s symptoms.
We frequently hear about some promising new potential drug breakthrough, yet there is at this time no medical cure and it’s not likely that there will be one anytime soon. Thus, the interest in exercise, diet, vitamin and herbal remedies and brain challenges.
Study shows lifestyle changes can reverse memory loss
A recent report on ABC News focused on a study headed by Dr. Dale E. Bredesen of UCLA. The information, provided by UCLA, explains how Alzheimer’s is a complex disease affected by sleep, diet and exercise. According to Bredesen, "These all…contribute to this critical balance in [brain] plasticity."
For this small study, ten memory-loss patients, some with brain-scan-confirmed patterns of Alzheimer’s, participated in this UCLA sponsored trial dubbed MEND (Metabolic Enhancement for NeuroDegeneration).
Rather than a drug or treatment, MEND is a protocol where patients made dramatic lifestyle changes. According to the ABC report, “They avoided simple carbs, gluten and processed foods. They increased their fish intake, took yoga and meditated. They were instructed to take melatonin, get adequate sleep, incorporate vitamin B-12, vitamin D-3 and fish oil.”
Bredesen reported that within six months, nine patients saw a noticeable improvement in memory. One patient, who was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, did not show improvement. The scientists involved in the study say that more, larger studies are planned.
I’ve read the entire MEND protocol and it is rigorous. Quite frankly, I think many people would have a difficult time sticking to the entire program for any length of time, though for someone with memory loss the incentive may be strong enough do so.
Should larger studies prove that the MEND protocol is the answer to reversing memory loss or preventing it in the first place, I’m sure more people would be willing to see if they could stay with it. Meanwhile, many researchers do recommend lifestyle change.
In an article I wrote for HealthCentral titled One in Three Cases of Alzheimer’s May be Lifestyle Related, I concentrated on a report that came out of the 2014 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen.
The Copenhagen report spotlighted one of the largest randomized prevention trials to date, known as Finger. This trial concluded that intervention involving exercise, diet and other behavioral changes significantly improved overall cognitive functioning in volunteers when compared with volunteers in a control group. The study spanned a two-year timeframe.
What this means for most people at this time is that appropriate exercise that has been cleared by your doctor, a healthy diet that may include supplementation - again cleared by your doctor - as well as an active social life and lots of varied cognitive activities may be beneficial to many of us. At the very least, it could give some individuals a chance to put off the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease for a significant number of years.
Proof that a healthy lifestyle can actually prevent the disease is still lacking, but why not do what we can? Few of us would be worse off if we followed a healthier lifestyle. Meanwhile, the researchers working on the MEND protocol may be offering additional advice for the general public as time goes on.
Dador, D. (2014, October 14. UCLA Study: Non-drug Treatment May Reverse Alzheimer’s. ABC News. http://abc7news.com/health/non-drug-treatment-may-reverse-alzheimers/336963/
Bredesen, D. et. al. (2014, September 27) Reversal of cognitive decline: A novel therapeutic program. Aging. Research paper. Retrieved from http://impactaging.com/papers/v6/n9/full/100690.html
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver who spent more than two decades caring for a total of seven elders. She is a newspaper columnist and the author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. Bradley Bursack is also a contributor to several books on caregiving and dementia, and is passionate about preserving the dignity of elders. Her website is www.mindingourelders.com. Follow Carol on Twitter @mindingourelder and on Facebook at Minding Our Elders.