A controversial drug approved by the FDA for Alzheimer’s could provide an opening to nutritional interventions to support cognitive health.
The controversy over the drug, aducanumab (Aduhelm), is because only one study found that it is able to reduce amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s, but it does not show any actual improvement in the disease, it has not been shown to actually slow cognitive deterioration.
Nevertheless, the FDA granted it a provisional approval, and mandated the company that has produced the drug, Biogen, to conduct post-approval studies to see if the drug could help patients down the line. If it shows no benefit, the FDA said it could withdraw its provisional approval.
“There have been 244 clinicals on Alzheimer’s drugs,” said Vincent Fontanesce, M.D., a neurologist and psychiatrist based in California. “And 243 failed outright. The one that succeeded had a minimal impact.”
The drugs did not delay the onset or improve or maintain mental function.
“Nothing alters the course of Alzheimer’s,” said Peggy Sarlin, author of Awakening from Alzheimer’s: How America’s Most Innovative Doctors are Reversing Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Memory Loss (Online Publishing & Marketing, 2016). “There have been four pharmaceutical drugs that don’t do much, and if they do, they don’t do anything for very long.”
Emerging science has suggested Alzheimer’s is tantamount to diabetes in the brain, also sometimes called type III diabetes.
A recent online tutorial called Awakening from Alzheimer’s featured all the ranking experts in nutritional interventions for brain health. These included Dale Bredesen, M.D., author of The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline (Penguin, 2017).
Bredesen published a proof-of-concept human clinical trial that used genetics and biomarkers to optimize neuroplasticity via a personalized plan for each patient.
Bredesen and the other researchers looked at markers of everything from inflammation and chronic infection to insulin resistance, nutrient deficiency and toxin exposure associated with cognitive decline. After nine months of treatment, the results were astonishing and led to a 4-point change in cognitive score. This is compared with a 3.5-point decline in cognitive score in a group of non-treated individuals, and a known 3-point decline with the aducanumab drug the FDA just approved.
In sum, 84% of patients improved, 12% declined, and 4% saw no change.
Nutrients that support cognitive activity
Bredesen has put his name behind a cognitive health dietary supplement, NeuroQ, produced by LifeSeasons supplement company. It includes the botanicals gotu kola, ginkgo and coffee fruit extract, as well as the healthy fat phosphatidylserine and propolis.
Coffeeberry extract is derived from the outer hull of the coffee fruit from which the valuable coffee beans grow to supply us with all that caffeine.
https://www.futureceuticals.com/neurofactor It has the capacity to produce Bbain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a hormone that is both a neuroprotectant and also produces new brain neurons.
Bredesen also mentioned the ingredients alpha-GPC, lion’s mane, Pycnogenol and testosterone for 3 to 6 months.
Another major domo of the brain space is David Perlmutter, M.D., who has authored numerous books on brain health. Integrative physician Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., is author of the acclaimed From Fatigued to Fantastic (Avery, 2021).
Teitelbaum has developed the MIND protocol to reverse age-related cognitive decline. It’s a combination of metabolism, infections, nutrition and drugs. For example, drugs that can increase the chances of Alzheimer’s, according to Teitelbaum, include antihistamines, incontinence drugs and acid blockers. From the nutritional front, vitamin B12 and magnesium help with memory (and with B12, deficiencies routinely happen with seniors and is difficult to discover, making B complex vitamins important for the geriatric set, and magnesium helps the body absorb B12), and medium-chain triglycerides from coconut oil can help with insulin resistance—getting back to the diabetes of the brain concept.
Marketers of cognitive health supplements are riding the wave of concern about age-related cognitive decline. The FDA’s controversial approval of an Alzheimer’s drug is supposed to fill people with hope even if the drug has not been shown to exactly work.
Nutritional interventions are in a similar boat. Even those shown to help with memory need to tread carefully. Back in 2017, DSM’s iHealth division conducted a positive trial on a high dose of DHA to then launch a supplement with a health claim around memory. The FTC took the company to task, noting there are seven kinds of memory and they needed to be careful about which exact type of memory was improved.