The UCLA Study on Reversing Memory Loss

Yesterday I was speaking by phone with a tech support person, and he mentioned that his father had died of Alzheimer’s. This often happens to me when I need help figuring out my website: Technicians or developers see the topic of my book and inevitably say they know someone who’s suffering from or has died of the disease. He has been forgetting words lately, he continued, and worries about himself. Don’t we all, those of us on the cusp of late middle age? You scramble to justify patches of mental fog: It’s stress, lack of sleep or too much sleep, and so on. But lurking just beneath those comforting rationalizations is the fear of an insidious demise occurring within our brains. Most of us are more afraid of Alzheimer’s disease than we are of cancer.

"Town Crier" by Bryan Ledgard via Flickr, creative commons, (Cropped)

"Town Crier" by Bryan Ledgard via Flickr, creative commons, (Cropped)

As I worked through what he was telling me to do (look for this, click that, now look for this, click that), I was toggling back and forth between a second screen, opened to Google, trying to find a link to the recent UCLA pilot study on reversing memory loss, so I could send it to him. At the spur of the moment, I found a couple of related blogs but couldn’t seem to get to the study itself. I gave him the main researcher’s name, Dr. Dale Bredesen, and urged him to look it up later.

Amazing how vital information slips down the rankings as days and months pass from its first release on the Internet. Unless you know the right combination of search terms, and they aren’t always so obvious, things sink too quickly into the cyber-sea. Sometimes I think we’d do better with old-fashioned town criers. The results of this study should be certainly shouted from rooftops, small as it was.

Using a multifaceted approach to reversing memory loss in 10 people with Alzheimer’s disease or its precursors, mild cognitive impairment and subjective cognitive impairment,* researchers succeeded in restoring memory to an impressive extent for 9 of them. And it was all stuff we can do! Admittedly, they assiduously tailored interventions to each study participant’s results on a battery of tests, and we can’t do that for ourselves. But I wonder what the harm could be in adopting some of these practices—they’re based mainly on a combination of good, commonsense health habits.

Here is the link I couldn’t find for the technician. It’s well worth your effort to read this article. If you skip anything, skip all but the first paragraph of Preclinical studies, which slides into a rather complicated soup of medical terms and processes. Do read Systems biology, however, as it gives a good rationale for taking Bredesen’s thesis and protocols quite seriously.

I looked up a couple of terms I didn’t recognize in the Therapeutic System Table at the end of the piece: Bacopa monniera, MgT is a green plant that looks like those pesky sprouts they put in sandwiches at vegetarian restaurants. The other is H.erinaceus. Note the cautions; it’s a mushroom

I’ve decided to make some changes based on this study. At the very least, I can exercise throughout the week, stick to a 12-hour daily fast, take appropriate supplements and eat a low glycemic diet.

Consider this: AD has a silent stage which can go on for up to two decades. If you can stop it or slow it before it becomes symptomatic with doable lifestyle adjustments, you may never even know you had it. How comforting is that?

*Patient self-reports of cognitive problems


Comment from Jim Duchene, March 7, 2015: I enjoyed your article. Why is it that the hardest things for us to do are the things that are good for us?

Reply from Mary, March 9, 2015: I don't know. I'm glad coffee and chocolate are good for you, at least. The hardest thing for me so far has been trying to let 3 hours lapse between dinner and sleeping.