Is a New Drug Strategy Really What We Need to Prevent Alzheimer’s?
By LINDA BONVIE and BILL BONVIE
So what’s up with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)? An agency that has been derelict in its duties of protecting the public for quite some time now appears to have gone completely off the rails (as have other regulatory entities) since the Trump administration began systematically removing any of the remaining constraints on industry’s most reckless impulses.
A prime example is the way the FDA has given Big Pharma carte blanche to proceed with the marketing of untested preventives for Alzheimer’s following the abject failure of a couple hundred meds to treat it (Merck being the latest to acknowledge that by halting a trial of its latest drug, joining other unsuccessful attempts by the likes of Pfizer and Eli Lilly).
The agency, under its new commissioner, Dr. Mark Gottleib (the same guy who’s been cracking down on the use of kratom, the one promising natural alternative for getting people off opioids, as we reported a couple months ago), has just proposed opening a new road into some rather thorny territory where none have gone before.
What the agency is now offering drug makers is the prospect of fast-track approval for an Alzheimer’s-averting drug sans the type of “widespread evidence-based agreement in the research community” that has been previously required.
In other words, our supposed governmental watchdogs are now inviting companies to experiment with drugs on untold numbers of people who not only don’t yet have Alzheimer’s, but may never even develop it. And all based on the idea that certain biological markers might provide an early indication of a person’s likelihood of getting the disease.
Of course, the fact that such meds will inevitably produce all sorts of side effects (some of which might even mimic the symptoms of dementia) in otherwise healthy people doesn’t even appear to be a consideration.
But while all the pharmaceutical industry’s researchers and resources might not yet have come up with patentable remedies for Alzheimer’s, or even identified its root cause (for example, the fact that some people whose brains contain the key suspect, beta-amyloid plaques, have no apparent signs of dementia), there are things we do know about its prevention that don’t involve prescribing risky drug regimens with as-yet undetermined consequences.
Perhaps nowhere has that been more evident than in the results of a study done at UCLA that were published two years ago in the journal Aging, and involved a series of lifestyle modifications known as the metabolic enhancement for neurodegeneration, or MEND. It involved just 10 patients ranging in age from 49 to 69 – but the cognitive improvements they showed over periods ranging from five months to two years were remarkable.
The UCLA program used in this study was a personalized one that included a focus on healthier eating, improved exercise and sleep patterns, and dietary supplements, as well as fasting and stress reduction techniques.
And an astounding nine out of the ten participants were found to have reversed memory loss and sustained those improvements using such therapies, according to the paper’s author, neurology Professor Dale Bredesen, Director of the Easton Center at UCLA.
Now skeptics, of course, might try to dismiss this study as being too small to matter much. But the very fact it was so small made individual outcomes much easier to gauge than had it been one involving hundreds or thousands of subjects. For example:
- The symptoms and neuropsychological testing of a 69-year-old patient with well-documented Alzheimer’s disease ‘improved markedly” after 22 months on the program.
- A woman in her late 50s who had shown symptoms of progressive cognitive decline, like returning home from shopping without the items she had purchased, forgetting familiar faces and not knowing which side of the road to drive on, not only showed “marked improvement,” but sustained it for three-and-a-half years.
- A 49-year-old patient whose memory had begun to decline, not only forgetting things like faces and scheduled events but losing the ability to speak two foreign languages, got it back and had a “normal neuropsychological examination” nine months after starting the MEND protocol.
- A 50-year-old woman who had developed memory problems that made it difficult for her to drive, find words and follow recipes, after only three months on the program, was able to babysit her grandchildren, follow written and verbal instructions without any problems, and read and discuss her reading with her husband – which she had not been able to do prior to treatment.
So what’s the magic formula that brought such changes about?
It varied with each individual, but included such components as eliminating simple carbohydrates, gluten and processed food, and replacing them with vegetables, fruit and non-farmed fish; supplementing daily with vitamin D3, CoQ10 and fish oil, and melatonin at night; reducing stress through yoga and 20-minute, twice-daily meditation, 30 minutes of exercise four to six times a week, and getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Oh – and one other thing. While the combining of these various elements seemed to be a key to those improvements, it’s not necessary to do them all to get results. And the only other effect, according to Prof. Bredesen, is “improved health and an optimal body mass index, a stark contrast to the side effects of many drugs.”
In other words, Alzheimer’s – or the dementia that many people experience with age – may be both preventable and treatable without the help of Big Pharma, and whatever new and untested drugs with which it may yet be planning to experiment on us. And without the FDA trying to run interference with such efforts on behalf of the Trump administration’s friends in industry.
Linda and Bill Bonvie are the authors of Badditives! The 13 Most Harmful Food Additives in Your Diet –and How to Avoid Them.
The good news is that there may well be a relatively simple way for many individuals now caught up in the ongoing nationwide opioid crisis to pull themselves out of it. And that’s no small thing, considering that that this man-made catastrophe has killed an estimated 20,000 Americans from overdoses in 2016 alone. The bad news is that the federal government is trying its best to make such apparent salvation illegal.
October 31, 2017
Now that Halloween is here again (it always sneaks up on you), we hope you’ve heeded our earlier advice and found treats that are free of the various “badditives” that are still being allowed in so many products.
But those scary ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, aspartame and even the partially hydrogenated oil that is now in the process of being phased out – can be found in a lot more things than Halloween candy.
In fact, you might even say that a lot of the items we eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner on a daily basis can actually be put in the “junk food” category because of the harmful chemicals they contain. And that includes a long list of items that you may have on the menu for your upcoming holiday feasts.
Take cranberry sauce, for example. While the cranberry is coming to be regarded as a “superfood” that offers many nutritional and even medicinal benefits (and should absolutely be part of your holiday festivities), much of the conventional canned cranberry sauce you’ll find in the supermarket has added the laboratory sweetener HFCS. That turns this incredibly healthful food into something that’s actually hazardous to our health.
Then there’s stuffing, which may contain a variety of badditives we talk about in our book – including various disguised forms of MSG that, depending on your degree of sensitivity to them, can cause everything from headaches to vision problems, seizures and Afib.
And that’s not to mention the things you might find in even home-baked pies, bread or muffins if you’ve made them from a commercial mix, and which may well include aluminum, a common ingredient in baking powder, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s and other health problems.
Of course, if turkey is on your menu, you should seriously consider serving an organic or free-range one, rather than a bird that has been fattened up using growth hormones, or on genetically modified feed laced with the herbicide Roundup.
By keeping these things in mind as you prepare for the upcoming holiday season, you can turn the festivities into an occasion for some truly healthy as well as enjoyable eating.
Linda and Bill Bonvie
October 18, 2017
New Jersey – Halloween is coming. And the scariest stuff is as close as your fridge or pantry.
It’s that time of year again when, unless you live in an isolated cabin in the woods (or possibly more so if you do), stocking up on “treats” is practically obligatory.
Now, maybe you’re not in the habit of checking the ingredients in the goodies you hand out to your neighborhood goblins. But remember, your contributions can have an impact on how healthy your community is. (And don’t overlook that you and your family may well end up eating the leftovers yourselves.)
So it’s a good idea to turn more than a passing glance toward the labels on the Halloween treats you’re giving out. A lot of them contain some scary ingredients you will likely want to avoid – even if they’re going to be gobbled up by witches and ghosts!
Here are some spooky “Tricks” lurking in those treats:
Trick #1: High fructose corn syrup or HFCS, the laboratory-created sweetener that took first-place honors in the Citizens for Health Read Your Labels campaign – and for good reason. The scientific rap sheet on HFCS is getting longer all time.
High fructose consumption in general, and consumption of HFCS in particular, recently have been linked to a higher risk for heart disease and diabetes – especially in kids. The additive has also been identified in studies as contributing to weight gain and obesity, hampered brain function and increased levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
Trick #2: Partially hydrogenated oil (PHO), a.k.a. trans fats. Unbelievably, some cakes and candies still contain this ingredient, even though the FDA promised it would be phased out by June of next year. All health professionals and experts – yes, all of them – agree that PHO poses a major cardiovascular threat.
Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admit that PHOs are responsible for causing more than 20,000 heart attacks and roughly 7,000 deaths a year in the U.S. alone.
Trick #3: Artificial colors, which are widely used in candies, are often derived from coal tar and petroleum extracts. These additives are acknowledged to cause hyperactivity in some children, which is why since 2010 European regulatory officials have required that products containing these unnatural coloring agents contain a warning label saying that consumption “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”.
Trick #4: Aspartame can be in anything from beverages to yogurt, but it’s also found in some common Halloween treats like gum and hard candies. And in a bizarre way, that’s kind of fitting, as it’s actually a brain-eating mini-monster in disguise, one of a class of chemicals known as “excitotoxins” that are actually capable of exciting certain brain cells to death.
That little side effect is especially true for kids whose blood-brain barrier isn’t fully developed. Since aspartame’s shady approval in 1981 by a political appointee at the Food and Drug Administration, thousands upon thousands of health-related complaints about it have been lodged with the agency ranging from migraines to dizziness to vision problems. And that that’s really scary!
No one, of course, expects candy to be health food. But some of the treats stacked up in anticipation of Halloween are far less healthy than others. And remember, the ingredient list, not the Nutrition Facts Label, is your only guide to what they really contain.
October 6, 2017
New Jersey – For several weeks during the spring and summer we sent you excerpts from Badditives! The 13 Most Harmful Food Additives in Your Diet and How to Avoid Them by Linda and Bill Bonvie, the longtime writers of our Food Identity Theft blogs. We are pleased to share with you here a follow-up message from Linda Bonvie, and look forward to providing more guidance on this issue in the near future:
What you read in the excerpts Bill and I shared was merely a glimpse into the world of an industry that has control over something that’s fundamental to life itself – the food we eat.
Even if you’re a confirmed label reader and avoid processed food like the plague, you’d still be hard-pressed to totally avoid all of the dangerous additives that have managed to worm their way into our food supply. Whether approved by the FDA or a shadow group known as the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA), which can give its “FEMA-GRAS” stamp of approval on practically anything, it all comes down to the fact that eating has turned into a risky proposition.
And what we’re up against as consumers is more than just lobbyists from the food industry.
Most of the risky ingredients covered in Badditives! have their own front groups as well – often made out to look like grassroots organizations – a textbook illustration of astroturfing.
One example is the International Food Additives Council. It claims that its mission is to “promote the benefits of food ingredients” and “support science-based regulations”. Translation: Don’t let regulations get in the way of our members’ bottom line. Only our science is valid – anything else is “junk science”.
If you thought the list of food additives from Badditives! covered everything you need to know on the subject – well, that’s far from the case. There are a lot more revelations where those came from – and you’ll be hearing more from us about them in upcoming messages from CFH.
In the meantime, if you haven’t already gotten your copy of Badditives! you can do so here. And please drop the folks at Citizens for Health a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know if there’s a particular food ingredient about which you would like to learn more.
Dear Citizen for Health,
Below is an introduction to The Transpartisan Review project.
My co-author, Lawry Chickering, and I are developing the Review to expand the themes in our 2008 book Voice of the People: The Transpartisan Imperative in American Life.
I think it is of special importance and relevance to Citizens for Health because health is one of the largest arenas where people from every section of the political discourse gather in the drive for improvement.
Conservatives, liberals, libertarian, greens, other third parties and unaffiliateds across the country see the breakdown of health and the healthcare system as a pressing matter of our national discussion.
We offer our transpartisan analysis as one way to think about health and a myriad of other national topics in which discord currently dominates our discourse. I hope it is useful to you.
Chair, Citizen for Health