(UPDATE: 4/20/2015: I’ve written an e-book about this topic! You can find it here. You can download a free sample, which includes the table of contents, so you can see the breadth of topics covered and decide if it is a resource that will be helpful for you or your loved ones. I also encourage you to read the post I wrote about what's in the book and why I wrote it.)
I know I sometimes joke around in my blog posts, making light of serious issues and poking fun at things in general (such as my ongoing food label series, and the sarcastic comment I made about Mikey and his gluten-free cupcake in the book review of Health Food Junkies.) But today I am bringing you something serious. Very serious. If you know anyone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, or someone who’s a caregiver to a loved one with this devastating condition, please keep reading.
Also keep reading if you are interested in learning about a growing view of Alzheimer's as another of the “diseases of civilization,” and largely the result of our modern diet, high in refined carbohydrates and vegetable/seed oils, and lower in cholesterol and healthful saturated fats.
In 2009, I read the book, Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes. Chapter 13, called “Dementia, Cancer, and Aging,” was the first place I ever heard Alzheimer’s disease explained as a possible result of insulin dysregulation and problems with glucose handling in the brain. (Turns out this isn't news. The medical literature to date supports this so strongly, in fact, that experts in the field have come to call Alzheimer’s “diabetes of the brain,” or even “type 3 diabetes.”) I found the notion fascinating, and that little seed stayed planted in my mind until it germinated and grew in the form of my graduate thesis in 2012.
the brain’s best friend
I am happy to report that my article, “Type 3 Diabetes: Metabolic Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease,” has been published in the Summer 2014 volume of the foundation’s journal, Wise Traditions. I am less happy to report that the number of people who seem to care about this is approximately zero. It seems to have fallen down a black hole. I am not ashamed to admit that this is a crushing disappointment. (As of August 10th, an article about gluten, encouraging people to consume traditional sourdough breads, has 14 comments, whereas mine has 2 -- the second of which is my response to the first one. Go figure. People are more chatty about adding bread back to their diet than they are about a potential way to reverse Alzheimer's, but I digress.) I knew my article was going to be published for almost a year before it finally appeared in print. Obviously the mistake was mine, in allowing myself to imagine a potentially huge response. (The foundation was producing an issue on nutrition for the elderly, so they were holding off on my article until this issue, in which it would fit perfectly.)
I had been hoping it was going to make a big splash. My phone was going to be ringing; my email inbox was going to be stacked. It would be the start of me making a truly valuable contribution in this field. (And the start of my career really taking off.) Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to help people who are already 90% of the way “there” with their diet and health and just want to tweak a few things, but there is a much, much bigger world out there, and people are quite literally dying because of 60+ years of misguided dietary advice. We’re not talking about someone wanting to drop to a new low in body fat percentage, or hit a new PR in CrossFit (not that there’s anything wrong with those goals). We’re talking about 75-year-old men and women who don’t know where they live, and who sometimes don’t recognize their own children. (Never mind that many of these folks are living in facilities where they no doubt receive RD-sanctioned breakfasts of white bread, jelly, egg whites, and skim milk! MADNESS. Don't get me started.)
This is absolutely unconscionable. Based on my understanding of the scientific research, I am convinced Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t have a damn thing to do with aluminum toxicity, pesticides, or a crossword puzzle deficiency. The medical and scientific literature to date point almost unequivocally to a deep connection to glucose and insulin. (Almost unequivocally. We can never say anything with complete certainty when it comes to these things, right? Except that it is completely certain I will never permanently give up coffee. I may take occasional month-long breaks, but I’ll always go back to it. See? I can throw in one light-hearted thing in a serious post, hehheh.)
I think I have something unique and important to say about the etiology of Alzheimer’s, as well as nutritional and lifestyle strategies to prevent, slow, and possibly even reverse it. I say “unique,” because I have yet to see all of this information presented comprehensively and coherently, in a way that laypeople and medical professionals alike can understand. Because of the nature of clinical research, many researchers look at only a tiny piece of the puzzle: a single enzyme, a single protein, a single gene. Rarely does someone synthesize the collective findings, and moreover, make actionable recommendations applicable to free-living (and free eating!) people in the real-word. That is the fancy way of saying that, regarding Alzheimer’s disease, there is almost no one translating the scientific findings into concrete steps people can take right now to prevent this condition and potentially reverse it if it has already taken hold.
Sooooo, since I am quite passionate about this, and believe it is imperative that this information be made available to laypeople and healthcare professionals, in an uncharacteristic move, I am forcing myself to not give in to “learned helplessness.” (A psychological phenomenon you can read about here and here.) Rather than be bummed about the lack of response to the article so far and basically give up and resign myself to the likelihood that this will go nowhere and that I am a total waste of a human life, I am trying to get it out in as many places and to as many people as I can. Eventually, someone will see it—the kind of “someone” who can help me do something with this. (I linked to it in a comment on one of Robb Wolf’s podcasts as well as one on Kiefer’s Body io™ podcast.)
Beyond that, I have also now submitted it to a peer-reviewed journal that I think will be receptive to my premise, and I can only hope they won’t reject it outright due to my lack of credentials beyond a master’s. (*Crossing my fingers.*) Lack of the letters “MD” or “PhD” after my name shouldn’t preclude the possibility that I have something intelligent to contribute. Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, and Chris Kresser, anyone? (Not that I am in any way suggesting I belong in company of that caliber. I’m just making a point.)
So why am I bothering to tell you any of this? I suppose it’s one more way to get this out there. (Even to my teeny, tiny blog readership. I am grateful for each one of you!)
If a loved one is suffering from this debilitating illness, please click through and read the article. I will warn you, however, that the WAPF’s online formatting is a little screwy and makes things difficult to read, so if you’d prefer a more aesthetically pleasing pdf version, feel free to email me privately and I can send a copy. (tuitnutrition [at] gmail [dot com]) Also, the version the WAPF published is slightly condensed, so if anyone’s interested in reading the full version, with just a bit more scientific detail (more specific mention of various enzymes and biochemical pathways, that kind of thing), I can send that, too. To give you some idea of the angle, my original thesis was called “Alzheimer’s Disease as Type 3 Diabetes and the Potential Therapeutic Role of Reduced Carbohydrate Diets.”
Please pass this along to as many people as you think will benefit.
Caregiving: almost as difficult
as being the one with the illness.
In fact, the little project I’ve been mentioning here and there is a companion e-book to go along with the article. Even though, so far, there has been little to no interest in the information I’ve put out there (and its incredible implications), I’m far enough into the book that I don’t want to stop now, so I might as well finish it. And maybe someday, sometime, in a galaxy far, far away, someone will want to read it.
Thanks for reading, everyone.
As a bonus, here is the intro to my e-book:
Introduction: Why Did I Write This Book?
In the current landscape of conventional medicine, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease amounts to a death sentence. Pharmaceutical treatments developed to date have been woefully ineffective, and modern medicine has little else to offer in the fight against this debilitating condition. The best doctors and therapists have to recommend is to keep the mind active, such as by taking up new hobbies or learning foreign languages. To imply that something as devastating as Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented by crosswords and Sudoku puzzles is irresponsible and downright insulting. The lack of progress regarding Alzheimer’s treatment is unacceptable, given the emotional, psychological, and financial tolls this disease exacts from its victims and their caregivers.
Cognitive decline is not inevitable as we age, and once it takes hold, it does not have to progress rapidly and unstoppably. Based on the theory of the etiology of Alzheimer’s as outlined in this book, there are ways to slow and possibly even reverse the course of this devastating degenerative disease.
Not many people are talking about these strategies, because not many people know about them. Even many physicians—including neurologists and geriatric specialists, who should be the most knowledgeable on these issues—are unfamiliar with this extremely promising therapeutic avenue. We cannot blame them for this lapse in expertise, however. The strategies discussed in this book are unconventional, and, in some ways, they’re relatively new. They don’t have decades of “gold standard” randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies backing them up. But as they say in scientific circles, “Absence of evidence does not imply evidence of absence.” The reason we don’t have piles upon piles of scientific evidence proving the efficacy of the methods discussed here is not because they don’t work, but because they’re unconventional, and very few doctors have the courage to step outside the normal standards of care and accepted courses of action to try something different, even though these same-old courses of action will get us the same-old results: namely, no results. No improvement for the Alzheimer’s sufferers, and no relief for their caregivers.
This is heartbreaking—and absolutely unnecessary. A review of the medical literature to date makes a strong case that Alzheimer’s disease is largely a metabolic problem—one whose most strongly affected target is the brain. And if Alzheimer’s disease is a metabolic problem, then the most promising avenue for addressing the root cause of the condition—and therefore potentially slowing and reversing it—is a metabolic solution. Specifically, this relates to a dietary overhaul and lifestyle modifications as they affect fuel metabolism on a cellular level throughout the body, but in particular, in the brain.
If you have been fighting the ravages of this disease yourself, or if you are a caregiver watching a loved one’s painful transformation into someone unrecognizable, I present this information to you with the sincerest wishes that it helps you reclaim what has been so devastatingly taken from you.
There is hope.
There is a way out of the fog.
Continue reading, come to understand the science and the logic behind the recommendations in this book, have the courage to implement them, and start making your way out, now.
I wish you the best on your journey.
Remember: Amy Berger, M.S., NTP, is not a physician and Tuit Nutrition, LLC, is not a medical practice. The information contained on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition.