October 16, 2014

"Combination Therapy" REVERSES Memory Loss

A UCLA study, reported in the October 12 edition of "Alzheimer's & Dementia Weekly," showed that a combination of different therapies actually helped reverse memory loss. Yes, that’s right: REVERSE memory loss.

It was a very small study -- only 10 participants – and it did not include other elements, like control groups, necessary to render its results “scientific evidence.” Still, the results are worth considering.

Of those ten participants, nine displayed both subjective and objective memory improvement beginning within three to six months of the program’s start. “Subjective” improvements are those reported informally by the subject. “Objective” results are based on testing.

Before they became part of the 25 Step Memory Program (called “MEND” for Metabolic Enhancement for NeuroDegeneration), six of the ten had actually stopped working -- or were having trouble at work -- because of memory issues. In time, after participating in the study’s “combination therapy,” all six returned to work, or stayed on the job with improved performance.

All ten were patients with memory loss either from Alzheimer’s (AD), amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), or subjective cognitive impairment (SCI), a condition where patients make their own assessments based on personal experience. That tenth participant – the one whose memory showed no improvement – was diagnosed with late-stage Alzheimer’s.

What’s more, improvements for the other nine people have been generally sustained, with the longest patient follow-up coming two and a half years from initial treatment.

The Combination Approach
MEND was developed jointly by theUCLA Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. It is the first “to suggest that memory loss in patients may be reversed, and improvement sustained, using a complex therapeutic program that involves comprehensive changes in diet, brain stimulation, exercise, optimization of sleep, specific pharmaceuticals and vitamins, and multiple additional steps that affect brain chemistry,” according to the report in Alzheimer’s and Dementia Weekly.

Until now, most attempts to stem or reverse memory loss – all essentially unsuccessful –have been based on single drug administrations. According to Dale Bredesen -- the Augustus Rose Professor of Neurology and Director of the Easton Center at UCLA, a professor at the Buck Institute, and the author of the paper -- "In the past decade alone, hundreds of clinical trials have been conducted for Alzheimer's at an aggregate cost of over a billion dollars, without success.”

Bredesen explains why the current approach to AD has proved unsuccessful:
The existing Alzheimer's drugs affect a single target, but Alzheimer's disease is more complex. Imagine having a roof with 36 holes in it, and your drug patched one hole very well -- the drug may have worked, a single "hole" may have been fixed, but you still have 35 other leaks, and so the underlying process may not be affected much.

Each of the ten subjects received a personalized “recipe” from among the 25 therapies, established on a case-by-case basis.

One Person’s Regimen
As an example, one of the ten patients was “prescribed” the following combination therapy:
  • (1) eliminating all simple carbohydrates, leading to a weight loss of 20 pounds;
  • (2) eliminating gluten and processed food from her diet, with increased vegetables, fruits, and non-farmed fish;
  • ( 3) to reduce stress, she began yoga;
  • (4) as a second measure to reduce the stress of her job, she began to meditate for 20 minutes twice per day; 
  • (5) she took melatonin each night;
  • (6) she increased her sleep from 4-5 hours per night to 7-8 hours per night;
  • (7) she took methylcobalamin each day;
  • (8) she took vitamin D3 each day;
  • (9) fish oil each day;
  • (10) CoQ10 each day;
  • (11) she optimized her oral hygiene using an electric flosser and electric toothbrush;
  • (12) following discussion with her primary care provider, she reinstated hormone replacement therapy that had been discontinued;
  • (13) she fasted for a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, and for a minimum of three hours between dinner and bedtime;
  • (14) she exercised for a minimum of 30 minutes, 4-6 days per week.

Most of those 14 “prescriptions” seem like common sense. The complete list of 25 – available via the link at the top of this post -- is much more daunting, with substances and abbreviations unfamiliar to me.

“It's possible addressing multiple targets within the network underlying Alzheimer's may be successful even when each target is affected in a relatively modest way. In other words, the effects of the various targets may be additive, or even synergistic." said Bredesen.

Positives and Negatives
MEND has several positive features:
  • Even following some of the prescriptions appeared to improve memory. It’s not an “all or nothing” regimen.
  • The program’s side effects included improved health and weight, unlike the often toxic, dangerous side effects from drugs.

There are drawbacks, too:
  • Incredibly small sample.
  • Essentially anecdotal results.
  • Very complex regimen, with the burden on patients and caregivers. None of the ten followed the protocol to the letter.

 Bredesen summed it up this way:
The current, anecdotal results require a larger trial, not only to confirm or refute the results reported here, but also to address key questions raised, such as the degree of improvement that can be achieved routinely, how late in the course of cognitive decline reversal can be effected, whether such an approach may be effective in patients with familial Alzheimer's disease, and last, how long improvement can be sustained.

The Next Step

North Carolina-based Muses Labs will soon begin a two-year observational study based on the MEND program. It will include more than 200 subject with Alzheimer’s disease.

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