When I took my mother to a neurologist to get a complete workup on her memory issues, the diagnosis came with a thud. Alzheimer’s. While Mom sat there unfazed, I was left feeling hollow inside as a variety of emotions fought for control. The doctor looked at me and said rather casually, “You have nothing to worry about. This isn’t the hereditary kind.”
Nothing to worry about. Is that so? When Mom was diagnosed, the numbers showed that one in twelve adults were developing some sort of dementia. Over ten years later the numbers are now one in six. It may not be hereditary, but there is certainly an epidemic happening that can affect anyone.
I have long suspected that something is up environmentally or behaviorally that is causing the increase in the occurrence of Alzheimer’s. In 2005, a study by Susanne de la Monte's group at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, identified a reason why people with type 2 diabetes had a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's. In this kind of dementia, the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in learning and memory, seemed to be insensitive to insulin. Not only could your liver, muscle and fat cells be "diabetic" but so it seemed, could your brain.
Feeding animals a diet designed to give them type 2 diabetes leaves their brains riddled with insoluble plaques of a protein called beta-amyloid – one of the calling cards of Alzheimer's. Scientists also know that insulin plays a key role in memory. Taken together, the findings suggest that Alzheimer's might be caused by a type of brain diabetes. When I heard of this study it felt that my suspicions were confirmed.
Because my mother and now my father-in-law developed dementia, I find myself trying to keep up with the latest research on the problem. There is very exciting news that has come out on a study that actually reversed memory loss. Dr. Dale Bredesen has had a very promising results with ten patients who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Of the ten, nine had their dementia reversed. The tenth was actually in late stages of the disease. The doctor is optimistic but does warn that the results are anecdotal and a more controlled clinical trial is needed.
Still, it is an interesting and encouraging approach. He has developed a protocol and personalizes it to each patient. In one patient, the program called for a gluten free diet with increased vegetables, fruits and non-farmed fish, stress reduction, taking melatonin at night, getting eight hours of sleep each night, optimizing oral hygiene, fasting 12 hours between dinner and breakfast and for a minimum of three hours between dinner and bedtime, and exercise. Another patient added coconut oil, probiotics and turmeric to the mix. If you are interested in reading the paper, you can find it here: http://impactaging.com/papers/v6/n9/full/100690.html
Be warned, it is pretty technical, but if you scroll down to the case studies you’ll see more of the protocols followed.
I look forward to hearing more about this research. In the meantime, I’m looking at my own lifestyle and seeing where I can improve my health habits. Dental floss, anyone?
Sorry about the link. It should be working now.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.