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A New Advance in the Fight against Alzheimer's
by Harbour Fraser Hodder
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4 November 2017
Dale Bredesen, M.D.
Game-changing Bredesen Protocol to include the TM technique
Everyone knows a cancer survivor—someone who has been successfully treated and is now cancer-free—but no one knows an Alzheimer's survivor. This tragic disease—the third leading cause of death in the United States—has had no effective treatment. Now there may be new hope for those suffering with or at risk for Alzheimer's.Dr. Dale Bredesen, renowned neurologist and author of the recent bestseller The End of Alzheimer's: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline, is changing the science and treatment of this neurodegenerative disease. His published, peer-reviewed findings are the first to show a reversal of cognitive decline in Alzheimer's,1-3 and the comprehensive ''whole person'' approach known as the Bredesen Protocol is now being followed by over 1,000 patients. Many of the studied patients have shown significant cognitive improvements in three to six months—some in as little as four days—improvements that have been sustained for years while patients adhere to the Protocol. The findings of these studies could be game-changing for the 75 million Americans, and their families, who carry the Alzheimer's gene.
Now, in an exciting new collaboration, Dr. Bredesen is recommending the Transcendental Meditation technique as an integral part of his protocol. ''There are a number of ways in which TM is actually a part of the overall approach to preventing and reversing cognitive decline,'' he said, citing published studies on the TM technique showing improvements in neuroplasticity and global brain wave (EEG) coherence associated with improved cognitive performance, intelligence, and memory, as well as significant reductions in hypertension, stress, and anxiety. (For more information, see this review of research on the TM technique.)
Recently Dr. Bredesen spoke with Enjoy TM News about his work and new book. ''We're just at the dawn of the era of preventable and treatable neurodegenerative diseases,'' he said. ''The reality is that if everyone does the right things, gets on the right program, gets the right analysis, Alzheimer's disease should be a rare disease.''
Patient Zero and the TM Technique
Dr. Bredesen observed the potential role of the TM technique in the Bredesen Protocol five years ago, when the very first patient to follow his approach experienced dramatic and sustained reversal of cognitive impairment. At the time she began the protocol, she also started practicing TM regularly.
When she was 65, ''Kristin'' started noticing her mind wasn't the same. She made frequent mistakes in her high-powered job, got lost on familiar freeways, called her pets the wrong names, forgot what she'd just read. Since her mother suffered and died from Alzheimer's, she feared the worst. After two years, she herself was diagnosed with the disease. Rather than go through her mother's horrific experience, she planned to end her life.
Fortunately, Kristin shared this decision with a close friend who knew about Dr. Bredesen's work and urged her to consult him. He and his team at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging had been working for years to ''unravel this complex chronic illness,'' he said. They discovered that Alzheimer's ''is not a mysterious disease,'' but has 36 identifiable contributors. The key was determining each person's 10-20 drivers, then designing a personalized treatment plan.
Kristin was ''Patient Zero.'' After just three months on her personalized plan, she was astounded at the improvements in her mental capacity. She was working fulltime again, driving without getting lost, remembering all she read, and feeling better than ever.
''Patient Zero is now over five years out, and she's doing absolutely great,'' reported Dr. Bredesen. ''She practices TM on a regular basis and attributes a lot of her improvement to the TM technique. She believes that it has been a very important part of her overall program. And in fact, when she's gone off the program, which she's done four different times for various reasons . . . she begins to decline again. So being actively involved with the program has really helped her and continues to help her. She's now 73—and some of her younger colleagues have said, How do you do this?''
Why Transcendental Meditation?
''We're always using the exact same compass, which is: What is it that can be done that will get the optimal results for everyone?'' Dr. Bredesen said. ''We are agnostic when it comes to any specific brand; we simply follow the data. We want to support and utilize what has the greatest support. And in this case, there is repeated, published support for the TM technique's effect on brain plasticity, for its effect on stress, for its effect on cardiovascular disease.''
He went on to list the many other ways the TM technique can play a role in the fight against Alzheimer's: ''One of the predictors for cognitive decline is hypertension, so the fact that TM has been shown to have an effect on hypertension is key. Another critical piece is stress, and again, there are published results on the TM technique reducing stress. There are even published results on things like telomeres [the ends of chromosomes] lengthening. There is so much published evidence suggesting that this is helpful, that it could be a very important piece of the overall program to prevent and reverse Alzheimer's. We look forward to studying the results of this collaboration.''
Rewriting the Alzheimer's Paradigm
In 1906, Dr. Aloysius Alzheimer (1864-1915) discovered amyloid plaques in the autopsied brain of a dementia patient. Since then, the search for treatment has focused on removing these ''sticky gobs'' of amyloid that ''gunk up'' the synapses between neurons in the brain—with ''devastating consequences,'' writes Dr. Bredesen in The End of Alzheimer's.
But treating amyloid as the cause of Alzheimer's uses a 20th-century approach for a 21st-century disease, he noted in our interview. ''Our drug trials are a testament to that—we haven't been very successful,'' he added. Although there are drugs that get rid of amyloid, none cure Alzheimer's or stop its progression.
While 20th-century medicine was great at figuring out ''What it is'' and eliminating single causes, such as curing infectious diseases with antibiotics and vaccines, ''What we are left with, and what almost all of us are now suffering from and ultimately dying from, are the complex chronic illnesses—Alzheimer's, cancer, cardiovascular disease, Type II diabetes, osteoporosis. Going after those with the same strategy is like using your checkers strategy in a chess match. It has not worked very well,'' said Dr. Bredesen.
Instead, 21st-century medicine needs to be about ''Why?'' Why is the brain producing amyloid, and ''what are all the things that contribute?'' he asked. What his research found has been paradigm-shifting: ''Amyloid is actually a protective response to three different insults to the brain. So what you really want to do is to remove those insults, and then the amyloid will slowly go away over time. What you don't want to do is get rid of amyloid before you get rid of what's causing it.''
Dr. Bredesen's research further reveals that Alzheimer's disease is not one condition, as thought for a hundred years, but three, depending on what is causing amyloid production.
Hot, Cold, and Vile—3 Insults to the Brain, 3 Types of Alzheimer's
Type 1 Alzheimer's is Hot. It's caused by chronic inflammation from things like undiagnosed Lyme disease or chronic viral infections such as Herpes simplex. Dr. Bredesen cited ''new research by Dr. Robert Moir and Dr. Rudolph Tanzi at Harvard, showing that, in fact, the amyloid is an antimicrobial that your body makes to fight these various microbes.'' He added that other causes include ''anything that's chronically inflaming you,'' such as eating trans fats or large amounts of sugar.
Type 2 Alzheimer's is Cold or ''atrophic.'' This means it's caused by a lack of nutrition, so the brain ''downsizes,'' or shrinks. ''Your brain, just like your body, needs support,'' Dr. Bredesen explained. ''Just as you need food to eat, air to breathe, and water to drink, your brain cells have to have support. This includes nerve growth factor, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, vitamin D, and on and on. These are all trophic supports. When you withdraw those, you cannot support this massive neural network that you have in your brain. And part of the downsizing that results involves the production of the amyloid.''
Type 3 Alzheimer's is Vile or ''toxic.'' It's caused by exposure to specific toxins. 'Amyloid, for example, binds copper extremely tightly. So if you get exposed to too much copper, which could otherwise damage your brain cells, you will make the amyloid to bind that,' said Dr. Bredesen. Exposure to mercury, biotoxins from various molds, and other chemical toxins trigger amyloid production as a protective measure.
With amyloid, he emphasized, ''you're actually making this protective response to these different insults, so the critical piece is to look for what things are contributing.''
How the Bredesen Protocol TM Works
Working with a healthcare specialist trained to use this Protocol or your own doctor, the first step is to have a cognoscopy—a battery of tests to determine which contributors are driving your risk or symptoms. ''We now collect 150 different pieces of information,'' Dr. Bredesen said. ''Some are historical, most are laboratory, some imaging, and some functions. Where do you stand with your executive function? Where do you stand with your memory function?'' (See Table 2 in The End of Alzheimer's for a complete list of tests and target values.)
Typically there will be 10 to 25 different contributors, for which your trained healthcare provider designs a personalized program. For Type 1 Alzheimer's, for example, ''We need to identify and remove the cause of inflammation, resolve the ongoing inflammation, and prevent future inflammation,'' he said.
''When you do things like the TM technique, of course, you address a number of the contributors, like too high blood pressure, or hypertension, and too high cortisol. Stress turns out to be quite important,'' he emphasized again. ''Stress not only increases your cortisol and damages your hippocampus, but also leads to leaky gut, which literally leaks various food fragments and bacterial fragments into your blood stream. This leads to an inflammatory response, which contributes to Type 1 Alzheimer's disease.''
Dr. Bredesen will be conducting research on the Bredesen Protocol and the TM technique. Step 1 will be a clinical trial on the whole Protocol including TM ''to determine if what we've been seeing can stand up in a clinical trial,'' he explained. ''In Step 2, probably a year or two down the road, we'd like to test single variables, like the TM technique, where you use part of the Protocol. You improve people to the point of getting to a plateau, and then you add your next piece. So we will know how important a part TM plays. But the strong suggestion, from everything that's already been published, is that it is something that is very promising for the brain and, specifically, for neural networks.''
''As Metabolism Goes, so Goes Cognition''
Another tool in the Bredesen Protocol is switching your metabolism from carb-burning and insulin-resistant to fat-burning and insulin-sensitive. ''As metabolism goes, so goes cognition,'' Dr. Bredesen writes in his book. And that starts with what we eat and something called ketosis.
Ketosis is a normal metabolic process that occurs when your body doesn't have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy and burns fat instead. Dr. Bredesen explained its usefulness: ''The diet we use is called Ketoflex 12/3 because it induces mild ketosis, which actually turns out to be very good for cognitive support and helps your brain to function.''
In the Ketoflex 12/3 diet, when you eat is as important as what you eat. While minimizing simple carbs like sugar, white rice and potatoes, soft drinks, alcohol, and processed foods, it also includes daily fasting—the ''12/3'' means 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, and 3 hours between dinner and bedtime.
''Exercise also turns out to be very important and helps to induce this ketotic state,'' added Dr. Bredesen. As a result of exercise, ''the ketones actually enter your brain and turn on specific genes. One of the genes the ketones turn on happens to be brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is literally an anti-Alzheimer's factor.'' The Bredesen Protocol recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking or something more vigorous.
Other elements of the Bredesen Protocol include getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night and optimizing hormonal and nutritional levels through vitamins, herbs and supplements, and drug therapy, if necessary. ''The thing we always tell the patient is that we're not going to treat you as if low normal is good enough. We want to treat you like a competitive athlete. So we want to optimize things,'' he said.
How to Prevent Cognitive Decline
''I would recommend that everyone who is over 45 get a cognoscopy. In the book I go through what you want to evaluate. We've also trained 450 practitioners from seven different countries and all over the U.S.,'' said Dr. Bredesen. (Click here to request more information about treatment through the Bredesen Protocol.)
If everything is fine, he advises testing again later: ''Just as every 10 years you get a colonoscopy to make sure things are OK, once every few years you want to get a cognoscopy and see where you stand.''
He warns that ''the problem has been that people want to wait till it's very, very late, because they've been told there's nothing you can do about it. So in that way, unfortunately, this is a very sneaky killer. This comes on over time, so people keep saying, 'Well, I'm not that bad yet. Well, this is probably not going to be Alzheimer's,' so they put it off and put it off and put it off. And the reality is we should do the exact opposite. You should have prevention. And if you ever do become symptomatic, you want to have very early reversal, and you want to have a comprehensive protocol, which is what we've developed and describe in the book, for how you reverse the process.''
He adds that, ''No surprise, it turns out to be very important how you live. What you do, what your nutritional status is, what your exposure is . . . You want to lower stress. Again this is where things like the TM technique come in to be so helpful.''
In conclusion Dr. Bredesen said, ''Let's all work together to make this a rare disease . . . The fact that you have all these wonderful people who are practicing TM, and are thinking about critical health issues—and thinking in much more of a systems approach—this is going to be what conquers this illness.''
Dale Bredesen, M.D., is an internationally recognized expert in the mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. He has held faculty positions at University of California, San Francisco, UCLA, and the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Bredesen directed the Program on Aging at the Burnham Institute before coming to the Buck Institute in 1998 as its founding president and CEO. He is Professor of Neurology at UCLA.
SOURCE: Enjoy TM News
1. Bredesen DE. Reversal of cognitive decline: A novel therapeutic program. Aging. Sept. 2014 (vol. 6, no. 9).
2. Bredesen DE. Inhalational Alzheimer's disease: An unrecognized—and treatable—epidemic. Aging. February 2016 (vol. 8, no. 2).
3. Bredesen DE, et al. Reversal of cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease. Aging. June 2016 (vol. 8, no. 6).
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