Role of diet in Alzheimer’s underscored by treatment that reversed symptoms

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January 15, 2015



Could the typical American diet of fake processed foods – and the witches’ brew of toxic additives they contain — be a contributing factor to the steadily increasing number of Alzheimer’s cases and deaths that this country has been experiencing in recent years?

And might switching to genuinely natural and organic foods actually help prevent the development of this dread disease – or in many cases reverse its early symptoms?

These might once have sounded like idle questions.  But not anymore.

Because now we’ve been given a small, but still important indication that the answer to both could well be yes.

I’m referring to a stunning discovery reported in the Journal Aging– the results of a study done by the Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research at UCLA involving ten subjects between the ages of 55 and 75 who had been in various stages of dementia. After taking part in a revolutionary new treatment program, all but one reported that their cognition was either significantly improved or back to normal.

This particular therapy, however, didn’t rely on drugs, nor did it focus on any single cause. Instead, it addressed three dozen potential deficiencies, imbalances and sources of inflammation, each of which “contributes a small piece of the puzzle,” according to study author Dr. Dale Bredesen, the center’s director.

While such “pieces” included getting sufficient sleep and exercise, fasting and supplementation with things like vitamin D and fish oil, what especially struck me in reading a CNN article about the study that ran under the headline “We may be able to reverse signs of early Alzheimer’s disease” was the recurring emphasis on dietary change. Processed foods were given up entirely by the study volunteers, whose improvements were described in detail.

Processed food: a recipe for dementia

Of course, defenders of the status quo (especially those with an economic interest in it) would probably say this isn’t “proof” that such products are among the causes of Alzheimer’s. But I would reverse that by asking, “Why wouldn’t they be?”  Especially when you consider some of the ingredients they’re likely to contain, both individually and taken together. For example:

High fructose corn syrup:  This cheap laboratory sweetener, still found in numerous products (despite the increasing number from which it’s been dropped in recent years), has been identified by researchers as a cause of both obesity and diabetes, which have become epidemic since its introduction in the food supply as a substitute for old-fashioned sugar.  And according to Dr. Jeff Cummings, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Alzheimer’s is sometimes referred to as “type 3 diabetes” because of its strong link to obesity, which elevates brain proteins that are associated with the development of the disease.

MSG and aspartame: Both the flavor enhancers made from free glutamic acid (monosodium glutamate and other forms of MSG, such as hydrolyzed protein and sodium caseinate) and the artificial sweetener aspartame contain neurotransmitters known as “excitotoxins” because of their ability to literally excite certain brain cells to death. This neuron damage is especially apt to occur in children and elderly people whose blood-brain barriers have been compromised, and is believed by experts in neurology to be a contributor to the onset of dementia.

Aluminum: If there were ever any doubts about the direct link between this toxic metal and Alzheimer’s, they were dispelled last year by the discovery of aluminum deposits in the brain of a worker who died after developing an early-onset form of the disease. Yet aluminum-based ingredients can still be found in a variety of processed foods, especially those containing baking powder.

Partially hydrogenated oil: This artery-clogging shelf-life extender, which the Food and Drug Administration proposed banning over a year ago after estimating that the trans fats it produces are responsible for 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths annually, also appears to impact brain health. That became evident back in November when a University of California at San Diego study of 1,000 young and middle-aged men found those who regularly consumed it showed far worse memory when tested than those who didn’t.

Now, take just those four additives, which are commonly found in processed foods, and consider the effects they could well have on the brains of those who eat products that contain them – often in combination – on a daily basis.

And add to that the fact that most of these same “foods” have been largely stripped of the essential nutrients found in genuine whole (and especially organic) foods — and that the addition of synthetic vitamins can never really replace the versions that nature created.

And when you do, is it any wonder that Alzheimer’s has been increasing at such an alarming rate in recent years, now afflicting an estimated 5.2 million Americans (and killing approximately a half million every year)? Or that symptoms of the disease were actually reversed in individuals whose treatment included banishing these toxic foods from their diets?

Bill Bonvie is the author of the recently published essay collection “Repeat Offenders” available at