Q: My father is becoming really forgetful. Our family has a history of Alzheimer’s, and I am worried about early-onset of this disease. I am frightened about what may lie ahead for our family. Do you have any advice?
A: All those who care for the more than 5 million people in the US who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease need to learn how to protect the brains of their loved ones with nutrition. Currently, approximately 15% of all persons over 65 years of age have Alzheimer’s disease (or 5 million Americans) and the pervasiveness of the disease is increasing rapidly. Unfortunately, the number of people with Alzheimer’s roughly doubles every 5 years so that people who live beyond 85 have a nearly 50-50 chance of developing it. And unless a medical breakthrough finds a way to prevent or treat the disease, by 2050 the number of Alzheimer’s victims will triple to a staggering 15 million people in the US. (National Institutes of Health, 2012)
The annual costs of caring for people with Alzheimer’s to Medicare, Medicaid, and US businesses is an astounding $148 billion. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 9.9 million people provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, about $94 billion worth of care when given by paid attendants. Alzheimer’s disease places a greater economic strain on the healthcare system than does the combined influence of heart disease and cancer.
Only a handful of drugs have been approved by the FDA to treat Alzheimer’s disease, and none of them stop or reverse the course of the disease. They have been shown to slow the worsening of the disease, but only for about six to twelve months, and only in about half the people who take them. (NIH, Progress Report on Alzheimer’s Disease, 2012)
Essential Basic Nutrition for High Risk Individuals like your dad
With the statistics cited above, the following should be of critical importance to everyone over 50 years of age: there is now excellent evidence that insulin resistance is a prominent characteristic of Alzheimer’s, and that a simple dietary intervention can bypass this fundamental problem and provide fuel to energy-starved brain cells, thereby keeping the brain healthy and functioning. In patients with Alzheimer’s, the neurons in certain areas of the brain are unable to absorb glucose due to insulin resistance and slowly die off, a process that begins one or more decades before the symptoms become apparent. Additionally, medium-chain fatty acids can sometimes reverse or at least stabilize the disease (coconut oil particularly) (Newport, 2012) An important article for you and your father is the following: http://www.coconutketones.com/whatifcure.pdf. There really is hope for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain diseases.
The brain (we now know) can actually grow new cells throughout life. This process is known as neurogenesis, and was not accepted by scientists until the end of the 20th century, partly because the sophisticated technology required to detect new brain cells wasn’t available.
Whole food supplements containing the complete families of vitamins B, C and E, omega-3 fatty acids, Coenzyme Q10, and trace minerals should be taken by anyone at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, as they protect the aging brain from degeneration and encourage the process of neurogenesis. A number of other specific nutrients are advisable for particular patients, but these should be discussed with your doctor who practices functional medicine and nutritional therapy. Most important is changing one’s diet to fresh fruits and vegetables, no red meats (chicken or turkey and fish instead), avoid fluoride, eliminate processed foods and drink only pure filtered water.
Numerous scientific studies have now shown that aging people are usually deficient in several important nutrients, especially vitamins B6 and B12, folic acid, and numerous vitamins and trace minerals. Oftentimes, these deficiencies are subclinical, meaning that, while they do not produce obvious signs such as bleeding gums or easy bruising (vitamin C complex deficiency) or bowed legs (vitamin D deficiency), the body is still unable to optimally function. (Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 2013)
It should be self-evident that every person licensed to treat the elderly has a responsibility to watch for and recognize the signs of nutritional deficiencies and to correct the state of malnutrition that may be present, as an essential part of the treatment of the patient.
There is no doubt that advances in medicine and surgery have saved millions of lives and relieved a tremendous amount of suffering. But, we can do much better if we combine nutritional treatments with conventional treatments. In many instances, nutrition can alleviate chronic diseases that do not respond to conventional medical treatment.
In my practice, we use a newer approach called applied kinesiology that has been profoundly successful at helping people move themselves beyond mental and emotional issues sabotaging their dietary success.
Whatever method you decide to try, right now during the holidays — when hope runs high but so does temptation — is an ideal time to start practicing it. What better gift to give yourself, and those you love, than a truly healthier you?
About Dr. Scott
Dr. Scott Cuthbert is a chiropractor at Chiropractic Health Center in Pueblo, Colorado, as well as the author of two textbooks and multiple research articles. PuebloChiropracticCenter.com.