Are We Getting Closer to a Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease?
It is hopeful to think of the millions of people who will (one day) be able to still remember that dream vacation, their wedding day, and recognize the face of their children. But how close are we, really, to a cure? Are we really on the verge of curing the #6 cause of death (Alzheimer’s Association, 2018)?
Scientists are working frantically to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but it seems like there are VERY FEW people out there who actually have the know-how and power to prevent the loneliest death imaginable. Who is it? Keep reading to find out …
DISCLAIMER: Before I begin any comments about health, I am required by law to make a disclaimer: “The following comments are not meant to diagnose or treat any disease, nor have they been approved by the FDA.” (By the way, any M.D. would have to make a similar disclaimer.)
All Alzheimer’s disease is a growing, global problem. According to the World Alzheimer’s Report, nearly 50 million people worldwide are suffering from dementia (Alzheimer’s disease is the predominant form of dementia). They project this number will increase to over 130 million by 2050 (Prince, Comas-Herrera, Knapp, Guerchet, & Karagiannidou, 2016). Knowing what it is, what causes it, and what prevents it will empower you to better take care of yourself and your loved ones.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that damages and ultimately destroys brain cells. In the Alzheimer’s brain, the outer cortex literally shrivels up as this disease attacks parts of the brain involved in thinking, planning, and remembering. The shrinkage is especially bad in the hippocampus, a key area for forming new memories (Jaroudi et al., 2017). In addition to the shrinkage and destruction of brain cells, the fluid-filled spaces in the brain, called ventricles, grow larger. Fewer brain cells and more fluid is not the combination you want as you enter the phase of life rich in joyful memories with grandkids.
What causes Alzheimer’s disease?
The most common abnormalities include the loss of connection between brain cells or ultimately the death of brain cells. In 1906, Alois Alzheimer discovered the presence of “plaques” (microscopic clumps of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid) and “tangles” (twisted microscopic strands of the protein tau). In essence, there are cobwebs getting in the way of brain cells trying to communicate with each other.
Over 100 years later, most mainstream scientists still buy-in to the amyloid hypothesis that claims the accumulation of amyloid is the primary cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Most drugs being tested are targeting these plaques and trying to get rid of them. Unfortunately, the drug trials are failing.
Billions of dollars, literally, have been spent on developing and testing drugs that target the amyloid protein. 99.6% of clinical drug trials for Alzheimer’s disease fail, as of 2014. Between 2002 and 2012 there were 400 clinical trials of 244 unique compounds, and only one was approved for use by the FDA. It is therefore not surprising that the FDA has approved just five treatments for Alzheimer’s, and even those only reduce the symptoms of this dreadful disease (Cummings, Morstorf, & Zhong, 2014).
In the meantime, Big Pharma companies are making an estimated 10 billion dollars annually off the few drugs that have marginally passed the trials.
Alternative causes and treatments
While the majority of scientists continue to search for the cure to the invasive amyloid protein (Ricciarelli & Fedele, 2017), there are other teams throughout the world looking at Alzheimer’s disease from a different perspective.
Using far fewer funds, staff, and time, their groundbreaking discoveries are definitely capturing the attention of leaders in the field. Here are a few you should be aware of for yourself or if you have a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Since it is a neurodegenerative disease, meaning it is marked by the loss of brain cells (and brain function), some scientists are finding success through helping the brain generate new brain cells – neurogenesis (Radad, 2017). Allopregnanolone is a neuro-steroid that can activate neural stem cells to generate new brain cells. The studies are looking promising in promoting neurogenesis and restoring cognitive function (Irwin, Solinsky, & Brinton, 2014).
An unlikely maverick in search for an Alzheimer’s cure is Paul Cox – an ethnobotanist (one who studies the diet of indigenous people). His team of scientists has approached the Alzheimer’s mystery from a different angle – studying populations with the highest and lowest rates of the disease. In doing so, they discovered a toxin – BMAA – highly prevalent in the diet of the Chamorro people of Guam (Cox, Kostrzewa, & Guillemin, 2018). These indigenous people were 100 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to the rest of the world because of the highly toxic levels of BMAA in their diet. We are all exposed to the BMAA toxin at lesser levels as it is prevalent in all cyanobacteria (blue-green algae).
According to their research, the amino acid L-serine (available on Amazon) has neuroprotective properties against this toxin (Metcalf, Dunlop, Powell, Banack, & Cox, 2018). How did they discover that? It’s a fascinating story that involves the study of the indigenous Ogimi people in Japan that have more people over the age of 100 per capita than anywhere else in the world … and no trace of Alzheimer’s. Their diet consists of 3-4 times more L-serine than average and they dance around like ballerina’s with sharp minds well into their 90s and 100s.
The most relaxing, evidence-based prevention research is coming from Dr. Laukkanen’s study of 2,000 men in Finland. His studies show that long-term sauna use (4 x week for at least 20 minutes at 174 degrees F) can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 65% for up to 20 years (Laukkanen, Kunutsor, Kauhanen, & Laukkanen, 2016). Sauna use has also been correlated with reduced heart-related deaths and overall improved healthspan. How? It shocks the system and sends in “the repair team: to upgrade you.”
Although it seems like a “cure” (or prescription to the sauna) is just around the corner, the reality of the medical field is this: these research studies take years to sort out, test, and get approved.
While we anxiously wait, there is one person who holds the power to prevent Alzheimer’s disease: YOU are still your best available “cure” with preventative lifestyle habits. It’s time to stop waiting for someone else to keep your brain healthy. Take control of your health and make some simple adjustments to your daily habits. You are worth it.
3 Powerful Ways to Take Control of Your Health and Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
1. Keep your BODY Healthy
Move your body. Every single day. What you do doesn’t matter as much as that you get up and do something daily. Walk, swim, take a yoga class, ride a bike, follow along to a YouTube exercise routine, anything. Being sedentary makes you a sitting target, literally. Exercise can both prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (Paillard, Rolland, & Barreto, 2015). If you are serious about winning the game of dodge ball with Alzheimer’s disease, it is time to get active.
There is a clear and undeniable connection between chronic Inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease (along with ALL other chronic diseases) (Heneka et al., 2015). Chronic inflammation occurs when your immune system attacks innocent, healthy cells, tissues, organs, and systems throughout your body, eventually creating disease that it is actually trying to fight off. Yet, why would your immune system ever turn on itself like this?
It all comes down to understanding what inputs your body identifies as dangerous to your health and survival. Most chronic inflammation is caused by chronic stress or putting toxins in your body (Lemche, 2018). I’m not talking about chugging a bottle of bleach.
Sugar and carbohydrates increase your blood sugar levels (blood glucose) to a level that causes alarm to your immune system. You might be surprised at the level of toxicity you consume through sugar, alcohol, tobacco, and white bread, just to name a few. Obesity is a common example of a highly inflammatory condition to your body. And all of these contribute to the chronic inflammation associated with Alzheimer’s disease (Venkataraman, Kalk, Sewell, Ritchie, & Lingford-Hughes, 2017; Pase, 2017).
Those disease fighting cells go to work and end up attacking healthy cells and impacting the function of both your body and brain. Studies are showing that high-sugar diets can lead to cognitive impairment, putting you at risk of neurodegenerative disorders – Alzheimer’s disease is just one of them (Matos, Macedo, & Rauter, 2017).
When you look in your cupboards or fridge, start looking out for your life LONG TERM. In the SHORT-HAUL, sugars taste good, but in the LONG TERM, they are toxic because of the inflammation they produce. Consuming too much sugar or carbs can put you at risk of Type 2 Diabetes. And that has been linked to Alzheimer’s (Matos, Macedo, & Rauter, 2017).
When you get hungry for that midafternoon snack, reach for the bowl of nuts or berries you put out in the morning. If you think you’ll miss your sugary snacks, you’re probably right. But don’t you think you’ll miss being able to recognize your loved ones even more?
The less sugar and carbs you eat, the less you’ll miss them. Aim to have carbs less than 20% of your diet. Your body runs better on vegetables, healthy fats (not trans fats), and complex carbs such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, and oatmeal (not chips, pasta, cookies, or white Russet potatoes) (Morris et al., 2015). Get plenty of omega-3s from ocean-caught fatty fishes (salmon, mackerel, sardines, and cod) or fish oil. Antioxidants (berries, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, dark chocolate, and others) are powerful anti-inflammatory agents.
2. Keep your BRAIN GROWING
Making your brain work hard is an important habit to help you avoid or at least delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. When you look at your nightstand do you only see trashy novels or is there at least one book that is challenging you to think and learn? Encourage your elderly loved ones to audit an interesting class at the local community college.
Do your parents go on rants about local or global issues at every family gathering? Challenge them to dive into the research on the topic and write an op-ed for the local paper. Keep their coffee table stocked with crossword puzzles, trivia games, or brain teasers. Set up their computer to have a shortcut to websites like www.luminosity.com to keep their brain active.
Consider supplements to your diet to keep your brain growing with the right nutrients. Here are a few supplements that have strong evidence to support their ability to prevent or postpone the effects of Alzheimer’s disease:
Curcumin: The yellow pigment in turmeric is called curcumin and holds all the power for its medicinal properties. Curcumin is a very powerful antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties (Zhang et al., 2018). It is best absorbed when combined with a bit of black pepper.
Astaxanthin: This antioxidant may be one of the best for the prevention and repair of DNA damage. This compound is over 500 times stronger than green tea, 800 times more effective than CoQ10 and 6,000 times more effective than vitamin C. Buy Hawaiian Astaxathin from Bioastin in 12 mg./daily dose. It reduces inflammation, which is one of the most critical jobs to do in your body.
Galantamine: The FDA has approved the use of cholinesterase inhibitors (ChEls) to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show they improve cognition, global function, behavior and activities of daily living. Galantamine, one of several cholinesterase inhibitors, can be obtained from Life Enhancement on Amazon in its most natural form (Matsunaga, Kishi, & Iwata, 2014).
CoQ10: Coenzyme Q10 acts as an antioxidant and has been shown to prevent and treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (Yang et al., 2015). It is conveniently available at most health food stores.
Gingko Biloba: This supplement has strong anti-neuroinflammatory properties that can prevent or prolong the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (Gargouri et al., 2018). Again, readily available on Amazon. Of course, it also supports brain function.
3. KEEP Social
Here is a fun one! Multiple studies indicate that keeping strong friendships as we age can lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. The research indicates it is the quality of the friendship that makes the difference, not the quantity of friends (Kuipar, 2015). So, encourage your elderly loved ones to get together with a good friend to play golf, crochet, or plan a weekly lunch date. It can be a lifesaver!
Examine your own friendships. Chances are you are very busy with work and other responsibilities. But are you setting yourself up so you have people to play cards with every Thursday afternoon once you are retired? Invest in your relationships now. It is a whole lot easier to decide WHAT to do with your friend than WHO you would enjoy being with. Stay in touch with old friends and reach out to them when you are passing through.
If you find yourself only keeping in touch with friends from previous phases of life that now live far away, be courageous enough to seek out new friends locally. Practice by having small talk with your neighbor in the driveway. Build up to inviting them over for dinner. Join a bowling team – not for the bowling (unless you’re passionate about turkeys), but for the consistent social interaction.
Ensure your social interactions are positive and uplifting. Getting together with friends once a week to complain about your neighbor’s loud music isn’t good for your health. Instead, plan to do something uplifting and possibly even altruistic. Instead of getting together with friends at happy hour to fill your bodies with toxins, meet up once a month for a walk at a park (while picking up trash), to donate blood, or volunteer at a community event for children.
Remember, prevention is always the winning ticket to any disease. It is still possible to eat, drink, and be merry – just be wise in your selections of food and drink, and you’ll be well on your way to many years of merriment (that you’ll remember) with those you love.
Remember, I am not a medical professional. Do not create a treatment plan based on this newsletter. Let this be a stepping stone of knowledge for you to continue on the path of informed prevention and care for you and your loved ones.
CEO, Jensen Learning