The Bonvie Blog: Alzheimer’s
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.