University of California Alzheimer’s researcher Dale Bredesen, is a neurologist and the founding president of the independent Buck Institute for Research on Aging. He has developed a 36 point plan to help people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Bredesen is passionate about helping people with early Alzheimer’s disease. He helped a 66 year old man who had been having problems missing appointments, misplacing keys and had difficulty performing at work. His brain scan showed amyloid plaque which is characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. His memory center (the hippocampus) had a volume of just 17 percent for men his age. Dr. Bredesen recommended his plan including a low-carb/high-fat diet, intermittent fasting, supplements, a sleep schedule and other lifestyle changes. Within 3 months, his hippocampus had grown 12 percent. His family noticed improved cognitive function.

“Such improvements are unprecedented,” says Bredesen, who described this and nine other hopeful cases in a provocative paper published in June in the Journal of Aging. “These are the first examples of a reversal of cognitive decline in early Alzheimer’s patients.”

Dr. Bredesen evaluates nutritional and hormonal deficiencies, infections, toxins and drugs as likely culprits leading to this type of cognitive decline. His program then attacks them simultaneously. This is a novel approach to mainstream medicine’s standard of care – the one-pill approach. There were 244 clinical trials of Alzheimer’s drugs between 2002 and 2012; all but one failed. His paper describes only 10 cases which is not enough to be considered a clinical trial but we may want to make use of his information.

Dr. Bredesen’s theory is that Alzheimer’s disease has 3 main causes: inflammation or infection, environmental toxins and/or hormonal deficiencies. There is a strong correlation between elevated blood sugar levels and Alzheimer’s disease (New England Journal of Medicine 2013 and Neurology 2012). Lab testing might include blood sugar, inflammatory markers, hormones, heavy metals and vitamin deficiencies. Sleep apnea tests may be indicated. Depression needs to be ruled out. He also recommends testing for the APOE4 or Alzheimer’s gene in people with a strong family history. This was a depressing test because it predicts a slow unrelenting decline into dementia. Dr. Bredesen feels it is better to know if one has the gene and institute hopeful early therapy. Depending on results, he makes an individual plan for each patient.

A recent study of 74,000 people published in JAMA Neurology found that regular use of heartburn drugs like Prilosec and Nexium increased dementia risk by 42 to 52 percent. Statin drugs prescribed to lower cholesterol have also been linked to increased dementia.

Brain food includes the healthy fats of walnuts, coconut oil, fatty fish and avocados. This is great fuel for the brain and neurons, especially in early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. In some cases a “ketogenic” diet (fewer than 60 grams of carbs per day) is suggested. This diet stimulates ketones which stimulate new neural network formation.

As always, your mom was right. Brush and floss. Good dental hygiene is important to avoid bacterial infections which increase plaque formation which can kill neurons.

Two ways to “clean” your brain are to get 8 hours of sleep each night, and to do periodic fasting (eating within an 8 to 12 hour window each day). Both medical interventions allow the brain to rest and cleanse itself.

Supplements to enhance cognitive functioning:

Curcumin: (a constituent of tumeric) is a potent anti-inflammatory spice. It lowers blood sugar and stimulates brain cell growth. Take 500 mg twice a day or eat your curry (my choice!).

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid): is an omega-3 fatty acid and is food for the brain. Take 1000 mg per day or eat lots of fatty fish.

Coconut oil: food for the brain. Take one to two tsp. per day. This helps keep your waist-line slim too.

B vitamins: to correct elevated homocysteine, which has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Probiotics: to correct gut inflammation, since many neurotransmitters are made in the gut.

Resources: Alzheimer’s Association, alz.org Buck Institute for Research on Aging, BuckInstitute.org David Perlmutter, DrPerlmutter.com MPI Cognition, MPICognition.com Sharp Again Naturally, SharpAgain.org