Category: Science

Alzheimer's Prevention is the best Treatment

Why We Shouldn’t Focus on Developing Alzheimer’s Treatments

Recently, The New York Times announced the creation of a partnership between the National Institutes of Health, 10 pharmaceutical companies and seven nonprofit organizations dedicated to the development of drugs to treat, among other things, Alzheimer’s disease. While at first blush, this five-year, $230 million effort may seem noble, the ultimate motivation for this seemingly ecumenical event is suspect.

Alzheimer’s disease affects some 5.4 million Americans, and according to a recent report from the RAND Corporation, costs Americans in the neighborhood of $200 billion each year to care for those afflicted. To contextualize this figure, it represents about twice what is spent on caring for heart disease patients. But it doesn’t factor in the emotional expense borne by the family members of Alzheimer’s patients whose lives are irreparably compromised by this disease.

Drug companies, as the Times article reported, “… have invested staggering amounts of money in developing drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease, for example, but again and again the medications have failed in testing.” Just last month the New England Journal of Medicine reported that two of the latest candidates for treating Alzheimer’s disease had failed, miserably, to provide any meaningful benefit.

Even more disturbing was the recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association  demonstrating that the Alzheimer’s drug memantine, currently FDA approved for the “treatment” of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease was not only ineffective, but actually was associated with more decline in Alzheimer’s patient’s functionality when compared to a placebo. Interestingly, those receiving synthetic vitamin E actually showed a positive response.

The reason we should temper our support for this announcement is because it represents a profound perversion of priority. Those who would be most enthusiastic about these seemingly forthright liaisons and monetary expenditures may be focused on the development of a blockbuster magic bullet for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease for reasons that are less invested in alleviating suffering and more invested in financial outcome.

We need to focus today not on developing future treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, but on raising public awareness of the fact that preventive efforts, well-documented in current peer-reviewed scientific literature, can have a dramatic impact, right now, in terms of reducing its incidence. Medical researchers already have the knowledge base that, if implemented, could cut the number of new Alzheimer’s patients here in America by more than half. And when considering the projection that the number of Alzheimer’s patients in America is predicted to double by the year 2030, public dissemination of this information should be top priority.

Unfortunately, marketplace realities stand in the way. There is no opportunity for monetizing such nonproprietary interventions like diet and exercise, which among other lifestyle interventions, are quite well established as playing important roles in paving the way for brain degeneration – or preservation.

Our best medical journals are replete with citations relating such straightforward metrics as blood sugar elevation to risk for dementia, and, as recently reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, even mild elevations of blood sugar, well below the diabetes range, show significant relationship to increased risk for the development of untreatable dementia. Blood sugar directly reflects dietary choices. This provides a meaningful leverage point that can tip the balance in favor of cognitive preservation.

Just last month researchers publishing in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry demonstrated that elderly individuals who added more fat to their diets in the form of olive oil experienced a dramatic preservation of cognitive function over a 6 year period when compared to subjects eating a more typical Western diet.

The potential implications of these and so many other  heretofore unrecognized studies is profound. But disease prevention lacks the heroism and brass ring potential of bold intervention. It’s clearly time that we take a step back and validate preventive medicine as it relates to compelling brain issues. We can afford to do no less.

For more information, order your copy of Grain Brain today and join Dr. Perlmutter’s email list.

  • Louise

    I will never understand these arguments that claim “there is no incentive for monetizing prevention.’ Aren’t there GF companies? Aren’t there food manufacturers of GF? And even grain free products? Don’t they have a financial interest in preventing neurodegenerative disease by selling their products? Sure it’s best if you make everything yourself, but like the vegans, the reality is, if it’s mainstreamed, people will need shortcuts. Give them a reason to provide good shortcuts and they will.

  • Tazz

    I wish I knew more that could help me. I get so frustrated and angry at the lack of options for us with early onset dementia

  • Most people don’t want to hear they are going to have to change their lifestyle, and even fewer will make the change.

  • Grant Parisi

    What’s wrong with these people?
    Perverse is really the only description that fits this kind of thinking.
    Hard to believe a respected publication like the Times would get behind something so wrong.

  • CallMeAnn

    Certainly, there needs to be focus on prevention but those of us battling this disease in loved ones are loath to just give up. It breaks my heart to feel the abandonment implicit in this article.

    • Dee

      I hear what you are saying Ann, my mom is also on the Alzhiemer’s train and more than anything I would like to see her cured. Dietary and lifestyle interventions could be as effective as any drugs but are so hard to implement. I keep trying to get my mom to ditch grains and sugar and eat more fat and she would try but she forgets and then everywhere she goes she is surrounded by high carb foods which are just such a normal everyday part of life in today’s society. Everyday I see Alzhiemer’s patients being given cakes, sweets, cookies and puddings and I wonder how much better they would be if they were being given low carb high fat foods instead. That breaks my heart.

  • Nancy Kishino

    Unfortunately, we have become a society of quick fixes and pill poppers as it relates to our health as well. Slow and steady life style changes does win the race!

  • Pingback: Alzheimer’s and Sugar (and Fat) | GoatFish Doula()

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  • Tammy Caldwell de Leeuw

    Dr. Perlmutter: Thanks so much for getting the word out about Alzheimer’s prevention and brain health. Thanks also for joining us on Living Wealthy Radio last week and doing such a great job of explaining this to our audience. Everyone should give this interview a listen.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sicwwTAZT7g

    • David Perlmutter

      We had a great conversation Tammy. Thanks for sharing here!

    • Louise

      Thank you for mentioning Dr. Atkins in a kind light. He was a kind man and helped many people. I became convinced that he was a good man when I saw how angry he became when he sat on that weight loss panel with the USDA. People who don’t care and are only out for money don’t waste energy getting mad. He made his point well that he started that weird marketing campaign to fund research into his diet because the USDA/FDA wouldn’t. Not sure if everyone saw it that way, but I did.

      • Linda

        SO wish I could view that Louise. It does not surprise me that the USDA/FDA would not fund research into his diet. It was money for them, not for the benefit of the health of people.

  • Lee

    As a healthcare professional and someone with celiac dx and family hx of Type 2 diabetes (but no Alzheimer’s) – I see the direct correlation that Dr. Perlmutter is talking about. We must individually get the word out to neighbors, friends and our own MDs, nurse practitioners, etc.

  • carrol

    I have Grain Brain- great gift for family and friends – we follow the paleo eating idea – good fat, lots of veggie, low carb, no processed food diet. This union of the government and drug companies is part of our system in the western world, especially North America, that does not work. We need to realize why it exists: because it makes billions of dollars for lots of people. Nursing homes are full of patients with dementia. How many researchers are pursuing studies around how food affects us? My mother died of Alzheimer’s and it was very painful to grieve for her for years on end. The public is so brainwashed by reactive thinking rather than prevention. Sadly, some people will not change their eating habits even if it does offer better health, less inflammatory joint pain, healthier immune systems, and better brain health. Why? They are addicted to carbs and sugar. It’s easy to give in, but then we suffer pain. I feel so much better and so does my husband. Thanks for all you work in this amazing field Dr. Perlmutter.

  • ri

    an ounce of prevention Is worth a pound of cure!

    • David Perlmutter

      Well-said RI!

      • ri

        thank you! i always keep that in mind im still in my twenties but i think it makes more sense to take care of my health now instead of expecting a miracle drug to cure my diseases and ailments down the road and none of them come without side effects-id rather be drug free. Its the same idea that maintaining a healthy weight is easier than balloning up and then trying to lose a whole bunch of weight thats also taxing on your body-using your common sense when it comes to your health is the most practical thing to do and of course coming on this site daily to learn and stay informed!

  • Yvonne Forsman

    I think we need to be realistic. We all know how the society works, how Big Pharma loves taking advantage of sick patients, making money off of them. We all know most medical doctors follow what their call “the protocol”, supporting Big Pharma, not really interested in prevention of disease or finding and treating the cause, but capitalizing on the symptoms and their patients’ lack of knowledge. That’s the truth! Regarding Alzheimer’s, there will be a test patients can do to know if they are in the Alzheimer’s risk group. If yes, a patient can choose to change diet from Standard American Diet, SAD, with tons of carbs, to Paleo diet which is low in carbs, to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s or maybe even reverse it, depending on the stage of the disease. Today most of us understand carbs are feeding many diseases, Alzheimer’s is one of them. The patients need to be responsible, need to find the truth despite their doctors recommending pills which don’t work, which have side effects, which empty the patients’ wallet and ruin the health. There are medical docors dedicated to the truth, to helping patients to get better, like Dr Perlmutter, but I personally don’t know of any other medical doctor with the same attitude and I have met many many doctors, having lived on 3 different continents and being 58 yrs old now. We need to help each other, to spread the knowledge on social media and among the ppl we know.

    • Louise

      I’ve got a test to see whether a doctor is any good. Bring a medical journal to a visit. They’re expensive, sure, but you can maybe afford ONE. If you can’t, then visit a medical library, and have a journal article printed, or print one at home on your printer. Ask the doctor about it. Be serious about it, it’s not just a test. Should be something you want to know more about.
      If they don’t immediately know the answer (very likely and normal)… Does the doctor say they will reply after s/he has a chance to consider the matter? If not, you’ve got a bad one. You might suggest to them that they get back to you on the matter later if they seem completely at a loss (it might be the first time anyone did that). But if they seem in a fearful panic, and want you to leave, then, just don’t return.
      There’s a difference between a doctor who reads current studies and a doctor who just follows clinical procedure mindlessly. The second type is not my favorite and I submit, is dangerous. There are good reasons for clinical procedure, it avoids mistakes for the most part. But it also blinds people to what’s right in front of their eyes.
      I haven’t met a neurologist who behaves this way, though I have had one who became frustrated with me because I refused to “keep a food diary” in order to “look for food allergies.” I requested that he test me and he refused to do that. We were at an impasse. After that, he didn’t help me much, which was childish, but understandable. It’s only in retrospect that I realize that was the nail in the coffin of the relationship. Water under the bridge now.

  • Sandra Clagett

    I agree, most people don’t want to change their lifestyle. If we could only get more people “engaged”. It makes perfect sense to use the preventative methods Dr. Perlmutter and others are encouraging. It’s empowering to have control of your life and not rely on others!

  • Sandra Clagett

    My mother died of Alzheimers in 2010. I know how heart breaking this disease is.

  • Vicki817

    The fact is, if you take a prescription drug, any prescription, for any reason, you are not well. Well people do not take drugs of any kind. I love Dr. Perlmutter’s books; they are quick reads, concise and full of helpful, common sense information for a healthier life. For those of us who are over 50, it becomes especially important to make healthy changes to our diets, and to take supplements that may be necessary for our future, such as EFAs, Vitamin and Mineral complexes and supplements that target brain clarity. Dr. Perlmutter’s books and supplements have been very helpful for both my husband and me and, with Obamacare changing our ability to keep our doctors, or even our health insurance policies (mine is one of the millions that were cancelled because I did not need birth control or abortions at 57 but was required to have such coverage…I am still waiting for the POTUS to reinstate my health insurance policy, as promised), so using natural health and helpful natural and integrative health websites for suggestions for health is my way of insuring my health. Thanks Dr. P.!

  • Sophia

    Education is key! My great Grandmother always says prevention is better than cure! Ascertaining the root cause of diseases is of utmost importance!

  • maria

    Dr. Perlmutter is inviting us to a new form of health-care–empowering yourself and informing your own choices through knowledge. In light of this, however, I find it strange that the supplements he sells are not extensively detailed. Why would we just take these supplements on what seems, largely, faith? At minimum, I would like a complete list of what is in the supplements, and what these ingredients are thought to do. Fillers-if any- are also relevant.

  • Boundless

    To toss out (what to me) is an obvious analogy, we also need no further investment in treating Type 2 Diabetes, per se.

    T2D is a completely optional ailment, and not a disease. It is a predicatable response to a full-time moderate to high glycemic diet. It is 100% reversible at pre-diabetic and metabolic syndrome stages, as well as at full blown T2D, before irreversible side effects have set in. Even beyond that, it is completely manageable with diet if addressed while you still make sufficient insulin.

    The implication of the Alzheimer’s proposal above is that AD is likely to turn out to also be a completely optional ailment. That wouldn’t surprise me a bit. That also would mean that for those already afflicted, diet is the #1 thing to address.

  • Emmy

    I am 66 and have to write too many reminder notes.I bought 2 of your books and want to excel. I am vegetarian and cannot force myself to eat animal products. Any advice about proteins would be helpful.I drink whey protein drinks and eat tofu , eggs ans beans for proteins.

  • Lisbeth Laursen

    Very interesting!

  • jerlands56

    This is a good example why I no longer give to nonprofit organizations. Collusion is pandemic and I think it save to safe to assume it contaminates many interest groups in America. I believe the solution to this problem is very similar to identifying the cause of illness and disease… But I imagine it will involve people specifically devoted to to the study and then there’s the issue of translational exchange. A very similar issue is fluoridation where it’s apparent individuals heading the FDA are influenced by corporate interest. An informative video on this topic was published by Mercola and can be viewed at.. http://youtu.be/l6VP2M0xsfs

  • Dennis Piamonte

    They (the seed oil and sugar industry) murdered my father and then my mother. “Murder?” Yes. They KNEW that they were peddling harmful product but the $$$ incentive prevailed. (Mens Rea) We have all been harmed by the “authorities.”

  • gadrogeek

    Thank you for this! It is pathetic that our mantra is “everything in moderation”.

    We must learn to say NO to certain foods, at any level. Here in Canada over the last few days the “buzz” has been about the new tests that are soon to be available that will supposedly predict your likelihood of getting Alzheimers.

    How scary would that be to know? Worse, this leaves many with the impression that there are no controls against this condition. You will either get it, due to certain factors in your biological make-up or you are unlikely to get it.

    That is a ridiculous mind set to get yourself into!

    What are the environmental factors triggering this horrific condition?

    Unfortunately there are apparently many and they are very difficult to isolate because we live in a world of multiple biological “pressures”. If this condition develops slowly (i.e. over a generation of time – about 20 years), then the causative factors will be extremely difficult to pin down. And the pharmaceutical companies will only exploit this!

    How about starting with the elimination of added sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup (labelled as glucose-fructose in Canada), and limiting
    dairy. My younger daughter had her life-long battle with eczema end by eliminating dairy from her diet. This, after a twenty year battle and lots of terrible drugs (e.g. Accutane).

    http://www.personal.psu.edu/afr3/blogs/siowfa12/2012/10/accutane-acne-breakthrough-or-patients-worst-mistake.html

    This will take tremendous self-control and determination, but isn’t your life, and ultimately those of your care-givers, worth it?

    Greg Shea (Lake Cowichan)

  • Sabrerocket

    Do all of U realize… What we eat is what causes MOST problems… If ‘U’ purchase food packaged, THEN U R eating Preservatives and GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) NOT what your body can tolerate, which causes internal problems… Pay attention to what you buy – ORGANIC is the best buy… Cooking from scratch is also better then ‘throwing’ a package together with PRESERVATIVES that you can’t pronounce and DON’T know what will do to your body! BIG food companies and Pharmaceutical companies work hand in hand for your money…!

  • Gail Kelley

    Absolutely there is a connection to our food choices and Type 2 diabetes, but another thing that is causing insulin resistance is many of the drugs people are being given! To name one, most antidepressant drugs will, especially over time, cause blood sugar levels to rise even if you don’t eat a lot of sugar/carbs.

  • hbksloss

    Everyone talks about how hard it is to change our diets and go against cultural “norms” but I think it is harder to watch a biological relative slide away into Alzheimers. It is a no-brainer (pardon these pun!), making changes to our diet and lifestyle is THE way we have a fighting chance to end the Alzheimer epidemic. I may not be able to change my genes, but I want to do everything I can to prevent my kids from having to watch me fade away, like we are doing with my mother.

  • Dan Dilworth

    There are opportunities to monetize good diet and exercise. I suppose many of us are seeing it in our communities. The prevalence of health clubs is one. I just began use of one a few years ago and it definitely helps me keep up triathlon training year-round during winter weather. And I’m struck by the prevalence of these clubs compared to 15 years ago. The other way is in good restaurants. Granted there a few of these but we fortunately have a good short-order place near by that embraces the paleo approach. So I’m just noting that this “grass-roots” monetization is encouraging. And I definitely agree that the big business plus big governments initiative is more than likely a sad waste–spending tax dollars for the benefit of the few on the business side of the arrangement.

  • Gaston

    Changing the lifestyle is not so hard! You do not loose anything you gain great health, mobility and get to enjoy life longer at 100% and not diluted because of some ailment! Politicians and pharmaceutical companies should put their moneys behind restoring healthy food sources and supporting the organic movement. This will do a lot more in helping having healthier citizens and with the moneys there will be more to help the old and disadvantaged!

    • David Perlmutter

      I appreciate your positive outlook Gaston.

  • Carolyn Jorgensen Potter

    Thank you for getting the work out that Alzheimer’s is preventable. I am so glad that I found the keto diet: I have lost weight, I am feeling better, and I enjoy eating eggs, bacon, cheese, broccoli, and sour cream. I am grain free, and now I am not hungry and my cravings are gone.

    • David Perlmutter

      Thanks for your kind words Carolyn. Glad to hear of your success.

  • Barbara Hickman

    Read Bruce Fife’s (C.N. N. D.) The Coconut Oil Miracle and Stop Alzheimer’s Now! and Stop Autism Now!

  • Piotr

    What I have found about Alzheimer’s disease and diet is that diet without preservatives almost totally reduces the quantity of symptoms. You can find out more here:

    http://cutfor.me/go/alzheimer

    Hope that helps someone.

  • Angela

    My father has been diagnosed with early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s but he also has level 3 kidney failure so the doctors are recommending he avoids red meat. Chicken and fish are okay. Any advice for someone in this situation? He has started to follow this diet protocol and had lost some weight which is good news.

  • valakos

    i believe an effective treatment for Alzheimer will usher in treatments for stupidity, as of now, there is no sure for either – the fact of the matter is there are no effective treatments for many brain disorders and one need only look at the five year survival rates for many brain cancers, let alone the lack of treatments for all the other neurological disorders to realise most doctors know next to noting about treating anything related to the brain – once its understood, we may finally be entering a new era

  • Devira Chartrand

    How can we support the research that you all are doing that is not medically or pharmaceutically based??

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