Reversing Cognitive Decline – The End of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Joseph E. Scherger, MD, MPH

Fifty per cent of Americans will have dementia by age 85.  This is a growing epidemic.  Cognitive decline starts much earlier.  We now know the cause.  Too much sugar and other carbs in our diet and an unhealthy lifestyle with too much stress, not enough exercise, not enough sleep and a lack of the right brain stimulation.

Two books came out in the summer of 2017 by leading academic neurologists who are able to reverse cognitive decline and even early and middle stage Alzheimer’s disease.  Their protocols are similar, based on major nutrition and lifestyle change.  These results for a disease that was considered untreatable are a game changer.

Dale Bredesen, MD is professor of neurology at UCLA and founding president of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.  His protocol for preventing and reversing cognitive decline is called ReCODE (reverse cognitive decline).  His book is The End of Alzheimer’s (Avery, 2017).  ReCODE uses at least 12 hours of daily fasting to achieve nutritional ketosis and a healthy Mediterranean diet of nuts, seeds, vegetables including avocado, olive oil and wild caught fish.  The book covers foods in detail, along with the supplements he recommends.  Other parts of the protocol are exercise, sleep and stress reduction.  Dr. Bredesen’s research findings reversing Alzheimer’s disease have been published since “patient zero” in 2014. 

Dale Sherzai, MD and Ayesha Sherzai, MD are husband and wife neurologists at Loma Linda University.  They are co-directors of the Brain Health and Alzheimer’s Prevention Program at Loma Linda University Medical Center.  Their new book is The Alzheimer’s Solution (Harper One, 2017). Their NEURO protocol is very similar to ReCODE and uses Nutrition, Exercise, stress reduction (Unwind), Restorative sleep, and Optimize brain function through multiple cognitive exercises.  Their nutrition plan differs from ReCODE in that it is a whole food plant based diet (vegan or vegetarian).  Their results are amazingly similar so anyone could use ReCODE, NEURO or a combination of each.

Dale Bredesen is a basic scientist who worked in a lab studying the biology of Alzheimer’s disease for over 20 years.  Like many, he was hoping to find a single biochemical solution to the debilitating disease.  In his book he explains why that is not possible.  Having Alzheimer’s disease is like having a leaky roof with 36 holes.  Fixing one will not solve the problem.  Fortuitously his wife is a family physician trained and practicing Functional Medicine.  She told him the only solution to fixing Alzheimer’s disease is to fix the lifestyle.  Turns out she was right.

A remarkable difference between the books by Dr. Bredesen and Drs. Sherzai is the recommended supplements.  Dr. Bredesen recommends more than 20 for most people, something that would be very expensive.  His diagnostic evaluation, which is called a cognoscopy, would also be expensive for tests not covered by most health insurance.  By contrast Drs. Sherzai recommend just two supplements, fish oil and vitamin B12, getting the rest of your vitamins and minerals in foods.  The diagnostic work-up is simpler and more likely covered by insurance.  This contrast reflects the current difference between a comprehensive Functional Medicine approach and a vegan Seventh Day Adventist approach to health.  Take your choice or follow a combination of the two approaches.  Both protocols eliminate toxic sugars and processed foods.  I suggest you consider a combination of the two approaches until more is known.

One of my favorite chapters in The End of Alzheimer’s is “How to Give Yourself Alzheimer’s: A Primer”.  All you need to do is to eat a standard American diet and live a standard American frenetic lifestyle.  No wonder 50% of us will have Alzheimer’s by age 85!  It does not need to be that way.  Alzheimer’s disease is very rare in the healthiest communities on earth who eat only real local food and live a low stress life with good sleep and good family and community relationships.  Such a life is always within our grasp.  Start living this way today.  It is never too late to change.