NZ Life & Leisure - - On The Cover - WORDS: ROSE­MARIE WHITE

Food for thought on brain health

HOW THE BRAIN ages (and why some hold up bet­ter than oth­ers), is a com­plex puz­zle of ge­netic, en­vi­ron­men­tal and life­style fac­tors. Sci­en­tists have spent decades track­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties and habits of age­ing pop­u­la­tions to de­ter­mine what dis­tin­guishes peo­ple who re­tain good men­tal fac­ul­ties from those who fare less well.

Dementia is one of the fastest-grow­ing health con­cerns in the world. By 2050 more than 170,000 New Zealan­ders are fore­cast to have dementia; the ma­jor­ity will de­velop Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

The brains of Alzheimer’s pa­tients have an abun­dance of two ab­nor­mal struc­tures: beta amy­loid plaques and neu­rofib­ril­lary tan­gles. The ac­cu­mu­la­tion in the brain of this sticky amy­loid plaque, dam­ages brain cells and makes it dif­fi­cult for cells to com­mu­ni­cate. The cells even­tu­ally die.

In the US, the Na­tional In­sti­tute on Aging funds Alzheimer’s dis­ease stud­ies. Since 1990 sci­en­tists have been work­ing with more than 30 re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties. Why re­li­gious or­ders? What’s spe­cial about them? Mem­bers of re­li­gious or­ders are good study par­tic­i­pants as they gen­er­ally live to­gether and have sim­i­lar life­styles, ed­u­ca­tional lev­els, daily rou­tines and ac­tiv­i­ties. This cuts down on the vari­a­tions among par­tic­i­pants that make it dif­fi­cult for sci­en­tists to in­ter­pret re­search re­sults.

Un­for­tu­nately, the in­for­ma­tion gained through these stud­ies will not be avail­able for decades. The med­i­cal world runs on ev­i­dence-based medicine and be­cause ran­dom­ized, place­bo­con­trolled, dou­ble-blind tri­als are the way to de­ter­mine this, a lack of ev­i­dence is of­ten given as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for in­ac­tion. But time isn’t on our side while the ex­perts come to a con­sen­sus. As Max Planck wrote in his 1949 Sci­en­tific Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy and Other Pa­pers, “A new sci­en­tific truth does not tri­umph by con­vinc­ing its op­po­nents… but rather be­cause the op­po­nents even­tu­ally die.”


There is now over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence that the same life­style and di­etary fac­tors that con­trib­ute to heart dis­ease also in­crease the risk of age-re­lated cog­ni­tive de­cline and Alzheimer’s dis­ease. The Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion has pub­lished a list of seven ways to de­fine op­ti­mal brain health in adults based on fac­tors that can be mea­sured, mon­i­tored, and mod­i­fied. ( Ask your doc­tor for a choles­terol, glu­cose or blood pres­sure test if you're con­cerned). CAN ALZHEIMER’S DIS­EASE BE RE­VERSED? One promis­ing area of re­search comes from Dale Bred­er­sen, Pro­fes­sor of Neu­rol­ogy, and his team at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia. They be­lieve that Alzheimer’s dis­ease is not a sin­gle dis­ease but three main sub­types, each driven by a dif­fer­ent bio­chem­i­cal process and each re­quir­ing a dif­fer­ent treat­ment. They also be­lieve the dis­ease can be pre­vented and, in many cases, its as­so­ci­ated cog­ni­tive de­cline re­versed. In their view the usual vil­lain, beta amy­loid plaque, may not be the cause of Alzheimer’s but in­stead a pro­tec­tive re­sponse against en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors ad­versely af­fect­ing the brain. These fac­tors in­clude: in­flam­ma­tion (from in­fec­tion, diet or other causes); sub­op­ti­mal lev­els of sup­port­ive nu­tri­ents, hor­mones and other brain-sup­port­ing molecules; and toxic sub­stances such as me­tals or bio-tox­ins. THE 12/3 DIET The Bred­er­sen Pro­to­col (a plan for med­i­cal treat­ment), known as ReCODE, is aimed at two groups: those with the gene vari­ant ApoE4 which is the strong­est-known ge­netic risk fac­tor for Alzheimer’s dis­ease, and peo­ple show­ing mild cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment.

The ReCODE pro­to­col is a com­plex busi­ness which de­pends on ac­cu­rately iden­ti­fy­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal threats to brain health and re­mov­ing these at­tacks, then pro­vid­ing op­ti­mal sup­port for re­build­ing the brain.

One sug­ges­tion of the pro­to­col is the Ketoflex 12/3 Diet. It rec­om­mends fast­ing for 12 hours daily (16 hours if you have the ApoE4 gene) and to have a min­i­mum three hours be­tween the end of din­ner and bed­time. This con­trib­utes to in­sulin re­sis­tance and the in­hi­bi­tion of me­la­tonin for bet­ter sleep. Au­tophagy (when cells re­cy­cle cel­lu­lar com­po­nents and dis­card dam­aged mi­to­chon­dria and pro­teins) hap­pens dur­ing sleep.

Note: The ReCODE pro­to­col is viewed with cau­tion by the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity, cit­ing the lack of clin­i­cal tri­als.

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