It's not a cure, in the sense of a pill that someone with AD can take and get his brain working again. But Dr Bredesen's Protocol has had some spectacular successes with people who are pretty far along the path to oblivion, restoring their ability to function, returning them to their homes and their jobs. Bredesen says "the end" because there is no longer any need for anyone to suffer symptoms of AD. If started early, his program will prevent AD from developing--and we know how to start early because it is easy to identify people at high risk for AD, and clinical diagnosis with brain imaging can identify losses a decade or more before the first cognitive symptoms.
Bredesen's program isn't simple. In fact, it requires special training for MD's to create individualized programs based on a dozen or more lab tests. But it works. You can stop reading right here, and buy two copies of Dale Bredesen's book, one for you and one for your doctor: The End of Alzheimer's.
Figure 1 is a bar chart showing percent change in age-adjusted death rates for the selected causes of death between 2000 and 2010.
(Image by Center for Disease Control) Permission Details DMCA
Background: AD has a unique profile among the Big Three killers that increase exponentially with age.
- It is underdiagnosed, and increasing fast. Some studies estimate that 25 percent of all deaths of age-related disease are really Alzheimer's, and everyone agrees that AD is growing, as cancer and cardiovascular disease are ever-so-slowly waning.
- There is no effective treatment for AD. There are a few medications that claim they can "slow the progression" of the disease. (Why would anyone want to stay alive longer while already mentally impaired?)
- The metabolic signs of AD can be detected decades before there are any noticeable symptoms. MRI scans can detect shrinkage of certain regions of the brain. Diabetic symptoms also foretell AD.
Dale Bredesen has been on the trail of AD for his entire career, beginning in the lab with cell cultures of brain cells in the 1990s. For years, he was looking for a magic pill -- that's what everyone wants. But his wife is a Functional Medicine doc. She told him for years that any solution to Alzheimer's would have to take a whole body approach, and be adjusted to each patient's individual conditions. Ten years later, that's what he found himself doing.
Dr Bredesen's spectacular success is easily lost in a flood of overly-optimistic, early hype about any number of magic cures. This is an excuse for the New York Times, the Nobel Prize committee, and the mainstream of medical research, but it's no excuse for me. I've known Bredesen for 14 years, and I've written about his work in the past. His book has been out for a year, and I should have written this column earlier.
I suspect you're waiting for the punch line: what is Bredesen's cure? That's exactly what I felt when I read about his work three years ago. But there isn't a short answer. That's part of the frustration, but it's also a reason that Bredesen's paradigm may be a template for novel research approaches cancer, heart disease, and aging itself.The Bredesen protocol consists of a battery of dozens of lab tests, combined with interviews, consideration of life style, home environment, social factors, dentistry, leaky gut, mineral imbalances, hormone imbalances, sleep and more. This leads to an individual diagnosis: Which of 36 factors known to affect APP cleavage are most important in this particular case? How can they be addressed for this individual patient?
I believe that what Dr Bredesen has given us is really a generalized anti-aging protocol, perhaps the most credible system that we have at present. Furthermore, he offers a new paradigm for medical research. We have been dependent far too long on drug companies focusing on a single (patentable) drug at a time. We need to be creating and testing entire protocols for integrated diagnosis and individualized treatment programs.
Our system just isn't set up to test programs, it's set up to test drugs, one at a time. This has been the primary thing slowing the acceptance of Bredesen's work, and who knows what other breakthroughs will come to light once we redirect medical research in this way.
What is prescribed?
A patient can connect online to Dr Bredesen's institute. He can sign up for a battery of tests that support a detailed diagnosis. He will be referred to a local practitioner familiar with the Bredesen protocol, but at present these are few and far between, so connecting might involve some waiting and some travel.
Based on the lab tests, the physician will decide which factors contributing to AD are most important to address. Typically, the prescription will be heavy on life style changes, with suggested changes in diet and prescription drugs as support but not the mainstay of the program. Here are a few things that might be included:
- A diet with less starch and sugar
- Aerobic exercise
- Regular sleep habits
- Supplements, including zinc, magnesium, and vitamin D
- Detox of accumulated mercury and other heavy metals
- An organic plant-based diet
- Stress management
- Eliminating environmental toxins, especially mold.
Who is Dale Bredesen?
Bredesen's credentials are second to none. He has an undergrad degree from Caltech, a medical degree from Duke, and post-doctoral work at the medical school of UC San Francisco. He was founding director of the Buck Institute for Aging Research, one of three high-profile national research centers. He has hundreds of published articles in the best journals, cited 40,000 times by other researchers, and spanning the gamut from lab research in biochemistry all the way up to clinical trials.
And still, he faces a medical community that is slow to acknowledge what he has given us. The reason is that his approach doesn't fit neatly in the reductionist paradigm that has become the core of Western medicine: one disease, one diagnosis, one pill.