Dr Dale Bredesen, a professor of Pharmacology at the University of California, told NutraIngredients-Asia there were certain vitamins, supplements and foods that could prevent or slow cognitive decline.
He referred to the ReCODE Protocol, which he had developed to evaluate 150 factors known to contribute to Alzheimer's. This protocol identifies an individual's disease subtype or combination of subtypes so an effective treatment protocol can be devised.
It also consists of an intensive programme that includes diet, strategic fasting, and specific supplements (among numerous other elements) to improve cognition and reverse Alzheimer's symptoms.
Diet versus decline
Bredesen said that the earlier one recognised the signs of Alzheimer's, the easier it would be to treat and prevent the disease. Despite the long-held perception of Alzheimer's as a disease that predominantly affects those in their 60s to 80s, initial symptoms can occur as early as in one's 40s.
He also spoke about the Ketoflex 12/3 diet, which is part of the ReCODE Protocol. The diet's key goals are to help restore proper brain growth and reduce neuro-inflammation, increase insulin sensitivity, and excrete toxins.
He said, "Patients who are already symptomatic must move from prevention to treatment.
"Diet is a powerful part of the overall programme to reverse cognitive decline. I suggest following the Ketoflex 12/3 diet to help promote ketosis in the body — combining a low-carbohydrate diet, moderate exercise, and fasting between the last meal of the night and the first of the next morning.
"Consuming fats such as MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil or unsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado or nuts also promotes ketosis. This will switch your body from carbohydrate-burning and insulin-resistant, which promotes Alzheimer’s disease, to fat-burning and insulin-sensitive, which helps prevent it.
"The diet is also 'flexitarian' — so meat is optional — and largely plant-based, with an emphasis on vegetables."
Imbalance and discovery
Bredesen was speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia ahead of the upcoming 7th Bioceuticals Research Symposium, which will be held in Sydney this May.
He is one of the leading researchers and clinicians who will present findings regarding new Alzheimer's therapies at the symposium, with the gut-brain connection among the topics to be covered.
His research has shown that Alzheimer's stems from an imbalance in nerve cell signalling, opening the door to a new therapeutic approach.
He explained: "In the normal brain, specific signals foster nerve connections and memory-making, while balancing signals support memory-breaking, allowing irrelevant information to be forgotten. In Alzheimer’s disease, the balance of these opposing signals is disturbed, nerve connections are suppressed, and memories lost.
"Our research has discovered that at least 36 factors affect whether the brain goes down a synapse-destroying pathway that results in Alzheimer's disease. All these different signals have to do with hormones, nerve growth, trophic and lifestyle factors, nutrients, inflammation, and toxin exposure."
These findings are contrary to the popular theory that Alzheimer's is caused by the accumulation of sticky plaques in the brain from amyloid beta peptides, whose abundance has been linked to memory loss.
Good for the body, good for the mind
Bredesen said this discovery would help in devising a personalised approach for each patient, beyond what existing Alzheimer's drugs could achieve.
"My approach is based on extensive testing to determine what is affecting the brain's plasticity signalling network."
He added that there was no "one size fits all" approach to neurodegenerative diseases — while the ReCODE Protocol was specific to cognition, one would need to consider a different approach for Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease, although the basic idea was similar.
"Those experiencing or at risk of cognitive decline should eliminate processed foods, while boosting their intake of fruits, vegetables and healthy fish. This diet and lifestyle approach recommends plenty of exercise, sleep, and herbs like Bacopa monnieri and ashwagandha," Bredesen said.
"Attention should also be paid to gut health, as well as both probiotics and prebiotics. These can be in supplement form, but can also be sourced from fermented food, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, sour pickles, miso soup and kombucha."
Additionally, he recommended daily supplements for those experiencing or at risk of cognitive decline, including vitamins B1, C, D, E and K, as well as omega-3 and Ubiquinol. These supplements, he said, could help form synapses, maintain hormonal balance, and optimise hormones if necessary.
However, he also emphasised that a 'qualified health professional' be consulted before adopting this approach.
"I don't recommend that anyone adopt this approach blindly — always seek the advice of a qualified health professional.
"For instance, if your vitamin D levels are already too high, it would not be wise to take vitamin D (without first consulting a healthcare professional)."