KEEPING YOUR GREY MATTER ACTIVE, AND YOUR BODY ON THE GO, MEANS YOU’LL HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF A HEALTHY BRAIN FOR LIFE
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.”
LIFE’S SIMPLE SEVEN
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.