Nutritional science is tricky. It doesn’t work like modern mainstream medicine, which tends to focus on one pill for one illness—with a whole bunch of nasty side effects.
In nutritional medicine, there may be a specific nutrient that is particularly well-known or has been tested for one condition—but its “side effects” happen to benefit other health issues as well.
This phenomenon was on my mind as I sat down to write this month. Because over the past few months, some interesting studies have come out showing brain benefits for nutrients and therapies I’ve been recommending—for other purposes—for years.
Specifically, there’s new research showing that some of my favorite nutrients—for balancing blood sugar, keeping your gut health in check, promoting healthy microcirculation, fighting aging, and even preventing cancer—can also prevent, and actually reverse dementia.
So based on all of this new research, I’d like to offer my unique spin on an Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment plan. Starting with some advice I give to just about every patient who walks into my office…
Balance your blood sugar
I’ve been saying for years that out-of-control blood sugar isn’t just a one-way ticket to diabetes. It also sets the stage for a number of other devastating, potentially deadly conditions. And now, research is backing up my warnings. According to a huge study (over 350,000 participants) published last year, poor blood sugar control increases dementia risk by a whopping 50 percent.1
Specifically, people with a high HbA1c (10.5 percent or more) were 50 percent more likely to develop dementia than people with a low HbA1c (6.5 percent or less). HbA1c is a measure of your blood sugar over a six-week period, and it’s much more accurate than fasting blood sugar tests. If your doctor hasn’t given you a HbA1c test, ask for one.
Bottom line: If you want to prevent Alzheimer’s, you have to take your fasting blood sugar seriously, and your HbA1c even more seriously.
That’s because high blood sugar levels can affect your brain in many ways. They can create inflammation and abnormal blood clotting that increases your risk of thrombosis, embolism, and stroke. And all of these are all risk factors for brain aging and dementia.
Researchers have already found evidence that diabetes may lead to decline in brain function. But this new study shows you need to be concerned even if you’re prediabetic (i.e. you haven’t been diagnosed with full-blown diabetes yet, but have abnormal blood-sugar readings).
In fact, in a study of 266 men and women ages 60 to 64, those who had high blood sugar levels actually had as much as 10 percent shrinkage in their brains.2
But the most notable takeaway from this particular study was that your blood sugar doesn’t have to be “off the charts” to cause problems.
The American Diabetes Association uses a stringent threshold of 100 as the upper end of what is considered “normal” fasting blood sugar. But in the study I just discussed, even people with blood sugar levels less than 100 had brain shrinkage.
So, the lower you keep your blood sugar (without passing out) the better.
The good news is, there are lots of ways to support healthy blood sugar. Too many to go into detail about here, as a matter of fact. But if you want a comprehensive, step-by-step plan for reining in your blood sugar, I encourage you to check out my Metabolic Repair Protocol. You can learn more about it or sign up by clicking here or calling (866)747-9421 and asking for order code EOV1S5AA.
In the meantime, you can make some good headway towards healthy blood sugar AND preventing Alzheimer’s simply by taking a closer look at what’s in your fridge.
Feed your brain
Here’s a term I wish I had thought of: “diabetes of the brain.” But the credit goes to the lead author of a recent study that found the typical Western high-fat, high-sugar diet leads directly to impaired brain function.3 Which means an unhealthy diet could be a driving force behind any number of neurodegenerative diseases—including Alzheimer’s.
For starters, this study showed that the Standard American Diet (SAD) can lead to changes in brain chemistry, especially when it comes to energy and food intake regulation. (That might be one reason why bad eating habits die hard.)
But it seems that high-sugar diets also impair your brain’s cognitive abilities (like memory, problem solving, and attention). This finding led the team to conclude that food choices could contribute to diseases like Alzheimer’s.
The good news is, my long-standing diet advice—to focus on whole, unprocessed, organic foods and healthy fats—completely eliminates these risks. In fact, recent research published in November 2015 showed the Mediterranean diet (which is what my New Hamptons Health Miracle is based on, with a few notable tweaks) can actually reverse brain aging and help ward off the symptoms of Alzheimers.4 You just have to follow it consistently.
And speaking of being consistent, that advice also holds true with the next step in my Alzheimer’s prevention plan…
A workout for your body is a workout for your brain
I talk regularly about the importance of exercise—for every part of your body.
So it certainly makes sense that regular sessions on the treadmill or in the weight room would benefit your brain as well. But shockingly, no one really looked at the effects of exercise in people with dementia until recently.
At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference last summer, researchers shared a pair of studies that are the first to measure how aerobic workouts affect people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
Not surprisingly, the news was good. Both studies found that regular exercise not only reduces Alzheimer’s symptoms, but can also improve overall cognition.5
The first study involved 200 people, ages 50 to 90, with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. One group of participants did three 60-minute sessions of moderate to high-intensity aerobic exercise a week. The other group didn’t exercise regularly.
After 16 weeks, the exercise group had fewer common Alzheimer’s symptoms like depression and anxiety. And they did better on tests that measured things like memory, language, and mental speed. Meaning that even though they had Alzheimer’s, their cognition actually improved—all because of exercise.
Another study of 65 older adults with mild cognitive impairment found that the type of exercise really does matter when it comes to dementia.
After six months, study participants who did moderate to vigorous aerobic workouts for 45 minutes four times a week had an 80 percent better score on cognition tests than people who just did stretching exercises. And the aerobic group also had 14 percent less tau—a protein in the brain linked to Alzheimer’s.
If you’re sedentary or don’t exercise very much, all of this moderate to high-intensity aerobic exercise may sound daunting. But you don’t have to hit the treadmill tomorrow. Start with a walk around the block. Then gradually increase your distance and intensity.
As I always say, even a little bit of effort can go a long way.
Give your microcirculation a boost
Another topic I discuss on a regular basis is microcirculation—the tiny blood vessels and capillaries that deliver oxygen and nutrients to the smallest areas of your body, including your brain.
So it’s no surprise that researchers at University of Southern California recently discovered that your risk of developing Alzheimer’s may hinge on your microcirculation.6
In the brain, these tiny capillaries are lined with specialized endothelial cells that make up the blood-brain barrier. This barrier acts as a sort of filter—allowing essential nutrients into the brain while keeping harmful chemicals out.
But the USC researchers found the blood-brain barrier becomes leaky with age. And the damage starts in the hippocampus—the area of the brain critical to memory and learning. It’s also one of the parts of the brain most affected by dementia.
In essence, poor microcirculation creates a leaky blood-brain barrier.
I talk about leaky gut a lot. And leaky blood-brain barriers are just as dangerous. But fortunately, just as treatable. Just as we know how to seal up a leaky gut—through diet and nutritional supplements—we also know how to seal up a leaky blood-brain barrier.
The key is strengthening your microcirculation. And a good way to do that is to reduce damaging inflammation in the body.
- Start by cutting out foods that promote inflammation—namely, sugar, white flour, and simple carbohydrates. Instead, focus on anti-inflammatory foods like organic produce, lean, organic, grass-fed and finished protein, and healthy monounsaturated fats like macadamia nut oil (once again, the basis of my New Hamptons Health Miracle).
- I also recommend supplementing with French maritime pine bark extract, otherwise known as Pycnogenol®. Clinical research has shown that one of the primary ways pine bark extract benefits your circulation is by targeting collagen and elastin, which are the building blocks that line your blood vessels and capillaries.
Unfortunately, collagen and elastin break down over time, which can lead to leaky capillaries and a damaged blood-brain barrier. But 100 mg of Pycnogenol a day can help the body replenish these two critical substances.
- Another essential tool for strengthening your microcirculation: citrus bioflavonoids. These compounds help increase nitric oxide production in the body. And that improves microcirculation by relaxing your blood vessels and capillaries so that blood can flow through them easier, resulting in less damage.
The three most well-researched citrus bioflavonoids are diosmin, quercetin, and hesperidin. I recommend 250 mg of diosmin, 25 mg of hesperidin, and 50 mg of quercetin per day, divided in two or three doses.
- The amino acid arginine also plays a critical part in the release of nitric oxide. I recommend 1,000 mg a day.
- Finally, research suggests just two to three cups of tea per day can significantly improve microcirculation. But if you’re not a tea drinker, you can also opt for green tea supplements (500 mg of an extract that contains 60 percent catechins and 30 percent EGCG). Or black tea extract (theaflavin) supplements (300 to 500 mg per day).
A healthy gut equals a healthy brain
I firmly believe that the health of your GI tract plays a critical role in almost every major medical condition. Indeed, research has already linked healthy gut bacteria to lowered risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other serious illnesses.
And now there’s also evidence that the quality of bacteria in your gut can determine how likely you are to get Alzheimer’s.
Researchers looked at 43 Alzheimer’s patients, and found that every one of them had a type of bacterial enzyme that breaks down proteins in their brain. There is speculation this enzyme increases the levels of amyloid beta peptides, which cause inflammation in the brain and have been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s.7
The researchers also found that same bacterial enzyme in some healthy people, and they feel these folks may be at risk for Alzheimer’s or accelerated brain aging down the road.
So while the research on bacteria and Alzheimer’s is relatively new, if it becomes anywhere near as convincing as the link between bacteria and other illnesses, it may be just the Alzheimer’s treatment we have been looking for.
The question, of course, is how do you manage to keep a good bacterial balance in your gut? And the answer boils down to three simple steps: eat right, sleep well, and take a good, multi-strain probiotic formula.
I recommend Dr. Ohhira’s (in fact I believe so strongly in their products, I’ve been a spokesperson for them for years).
How to protect yourself from the everyday toxins poisoning your brain
Considering how environmental toxins contribute to many diseases, it’s a no-brainer (no pun intended) that they may also have an impact on Alzheimer’s.
In fact, a recent study attributes 30 percent of all Alzheimer’s cases to environmental factors. The researchers list heavy metals, pesticides and insecticides, and air pollution among the chief culprits.8 And other research has found that nitrogen-based fertilizers, which are commonly used on conventional crops, are linked to the development of Alzheimer’s.9
But let’s say you eat organic and try to avoid pollution. You’re still not off the hook. New research shows that even naturally occurring toxins can contribute to Alzheimer’s.
On the island of Guam in the middle of the South Pacific, scientists have found an environmental toxin present in some soil and lakes may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.10
The toxin is called beta-Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA), and it’s produced by some types of algae and plants. Fish eat the algae and Guam residents eat the fish. And, as a result, they have a lot of BMAA in their systems.
The researchers noted that many villagers in Guam have symptoms of Parkinson’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). They also have the beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s.
But the good news is, the researchers found that an amino acid called L-serine significantly reduced tau tangles in monkeys that were fed a lot of BMAA. Which suggests L-serine may hold promise for the treatment of Alzheimer’s in humans, as well. You can get L-serine from eggs, beef, pork, lentils, flaxseed, and many types of nuts.
To protect yourself from other pollutants, I recommend quarterly detoxes. You can find my complete detox protocol in the September 2013 issue. But in a nutshell, it consists of two weeks of whey protein shakes for breakfast and lunch, followed by a light dinner each night along with a good probiotic like Dr. Ohhira’s and a quality detox formula that supports all three phases of detoxification—modification, conjugation, and elimination.
The hormone your brain likely needs more of
I’ve seen the tremendous benefits of testosterone replacement first-hand in countless patients. And I’ve always stood firmly behind its safety. And now, I have even more reason to recommend it.
You see, some new research shows just how dangerous it can be if you don’t have enough of this essential hormone.
This study of nearly 17,000 men reports that those who had very low levels of testosterone (as a result of androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer) had a whopping 66 to 88 percent higher risk of Alzheimer’s than the men who had normal levels.11 And the longer the men were deprived of T, the higher their likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s.
Of course, this study only included men, but I think it’s important that both men and women have their testosterone levels tested—and get testosterone replacement therapy if their levels are low. I’ve found that both my male and female patients feel better—and think more clearly—when they have adequate testosterone.
How chamomile and celery can help you fight dementia
I’ve talked about apigenin before in terms of cancer treatment, but according to a new study, this plant component can also improve neuron formation and connectivity—which is crucial for brain health.12
Apigenin is a flavonoid that’s found in many foods I recommend in my New Hamptons Health Miracle—including endive, beans, broccoli, leeks, onions, basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme, tomatoes, and especially chamomile, celery, and parsley. You can also find apigenin in supplement form, although it’s not widely available. (However, there are a few other, more common supplements with proven track records against Alzheimer’s. See the sidebar on this page for the ones I recommend to my patients.)
At the end of the day, it’s really not surprising that the things I just discussed turned out in studies to be useful for Alzheimer’s.
After all, these steps address the keys to good health. Like reducing inflammation, improving circulation, boosting healthy bacteria levels, clearing out toxins, and ensuring your cells have the nutrients they need to function at their best. All of that helps your body—and your brain—operate at peak performance.
And the best part is, if you’ve been following my recommendations, you’re already doing most (if not all) of these things. Which means you’re well on your way to stopping or even reversing your risk of developing any number of devastating diseases—including Alzheimer’s.
Alpha GPC is a form of choline that has shown amazing brain protective benefits in studies. For instance, in one study on lab animals, alpha GPC was shown to decrease age-related changes in the areas of the brain associated with learning and memory. And in humans, the researchers concluded that alpha GPC has significant impact on cognitive function—and with no harmful side effects.13
And in a study of 261 men and women with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, the people given alpha GPC (400-mg capsules three times a day) had consistent improvements in brain function tests in as little as three months.14
Another study of 120 people with dementia found that within 45 to 90 days of taking 1 gram per day of alpha GPC, participants had noticeably improved memory and word fluency.15
The average dosage in most studies is 800 mg to 1,000 mg per day. However, I believe you’ll still find benefits with a lower dose, if you take Alpha GPC with other complimentary nutrients to support brain function, like a B-vitamin complex, for example. Or lemon balm, which I wrote about in the January 2016 issue.
And of course, no brain-health regimen is complete without a good fish oil supplement. In a study published in February 2015, (which included nearly 600 patients with Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment), researchers noted that the patients taking fish oil showed less brain shrinkage on scans than the rest of the participants. Plus, those who used fish oil had better scores on cognitive function tests at any given time over the course of the study.16
I recommend 3,000 mg of EPA and DHA per day.
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16 “Association of fish oil supplement use with preservation of brain volume and cognitive function.” Alzheimers Dement. 2015 Feb;11(2):226-35.