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.
If you’re a part of our community on Facebook, you may remember seeing a study I recently posted regarding the long-term impacts of the ketogenic diet in a study of obese patients. The study, available thanks to the US National Library of Medicine and the NIH, had some very interesting findings on the impact of diet on brain and body health, and my post on the subject saw a lot of traction. Because of that, and because the findings have such importance, I wanted to share the research with you here. The study shows that the ketogenic diet has efficacy as a treatment for Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, depression, migraines, and many other illnesses that plague huge portions of our population. I encourage you to read this study and to learn more.
Cholesterol is vitally important for brain function. While your brain represents about 2-3% of your total body weight, 25% of the cholesterol in your body is found in your brain, where it plays important roles in such things as membrane function, acts as an antioxidant, and serves as the raw material from which we are able to make things like progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, testosterone and even vitamin D.
In fact, in a recent study available on the NIH Public Access site, researchers showed that in the elderly, the best memory function was observed in those with the highest levels of cholesterol. Low cholesterol is associated with an increased risk for depression and even death.
This understanding of the important role of cholesterol in brain function raises concern as we now see changes in recommendations for prescribing statin medication. Some estimates indicate that moving forward, the number of individuals taking statins to lower cholesterol in America may actually double! This presents a worrisome proposition for brain health.