Can Alzheimer’s Be Reversed?

Can Alzheimer’s Be Reversed?

Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that’s on the rise.

Dementia (of which Alzheimer’s is a type) is the UK’s biggest killer and is the defining health and social care challenge of our time. 

It is a condition that affects not only the individuals diagnosed but also places a significant emotional and practical burden on their caregivers and families. 

However, despite what many believe, dementia and Alzheimer’s is not an inevitable part of ageing.

And modern research is gaining more understanding about how the disease progresses and how it can be treated. 

Alzheimer’s explained

These deposits interfere with the normal functioning of brain cells, leading to their damage and eventual death. 

As brain cells are lost, individuals with Alzheimer's experience a decline in cognitive abilities, including memory, language, problem-solving skills, and the ability to perform everyday tasks.

The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease typically progress from mild memory problems to severe impairment, affecting an individual's quality of life and their ability to carry out basic activities. 

In the later stages, individuals may become disoriented, have difficulty recognising loved ones, and may experience personality changes.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive and degenerative neurological disorder that primarily affects the brain, leading to cognitive decline, memory loss, and a range of other cognitive and behavioural symptoms. 

It is the most common cause of dementia among older adults.

The disease is characterised by the gradual accumulation of abnormal protein deposits in the brain, particularly beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles. 

Outdated theories of Alzhemier’s causes

There is a long-standing belief that Alzheimer's is caused by the accumulation of beta-amyloid protein. 

However, despite decades of investigation and numerous clinical trials targeted at reducing or preventing beta-amyloid build up, no successful treatments have emerged. 

In 2021, it was also revealed that data in influential papers had been faked, which has cast further doubt on the hypothesis. 

It's true that amyloid plays a role in the brain and dementia, but Alzheimer's disease is complicated and there's much more to it than just one molecule. 

We've been targeting the mediators instead of the root causes. 

We need to look at other ideas to find an effective treatment or cure.

Alzheimer’s as a metabolic disease

Metabolism is the process that happens to turn the food you eat into the energy your body needs for everyday tasks like breathing, moving, and thinking. 

Metabolism also handles making and breaking down molecules that help your body grow, heal, and stay in good shape.

When we talk about metabolic health, we're basically talking about how well this whole process is running in your body. 

If everything's going smoothly, it means your body is using energy and nutrients from food efficiently. 

When there are problems with metabolism, there will be problems in the way cells function, leading to disease. 

Alzheimer's disease is associated with several metabolic dysfunctions that contribute to its development and progression. 

These include insulin resistance, mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation, and oxidative stress. 

In Alzheimer’s We also see brain metabolism decline in specific regions, leading to neuronal dysfunction and cell death. 

Cutting edge brain researchers now understand that Alzheimer’s is a metabolic brain disease.

And that means things that improve metabolic health can have an impact on treating Alzheimer’s. 

The gut-brain connection

Research has shown there is a direct link between the gut and the brain. 

For example, the gut produces and releases various neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, which play a role in regulating mood, appetite, and sleep.

This is why dysfunction in the gut-brain connection has been linked to various health conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), rheumatoid arthritis, and more.

A study from 2023 has highlighted the critical role that the gut microbiome plays in the development of Alzheimer's.

Using gut microbiota transplants, the research team demonstrated that memory impairments observed in rats with Alzheimer's can be transmitted to young, healthy rats.

The study found that the rats who received microbiota from Alzheimer's patients exhibited impaired memory behaviours, particularly those associated with a process known as adult hippocampal neurogenesis

This process generates new neurons in the hippocampus, a crucial brain region for memory and mood, and one of the earliest areas affected by Alzheimer's disease.

Metabolic therapies that could help reverse Alzheimer’s 

In 2014, Alzheimer’s researchers created a novel therapeutic program based on the underlying pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease, such as insulin resistance, neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration (loss of brain cells). 

The strategies include:

  • Reducing carbohydrates and sugar to minimise inflammation and insulin resistance
  • Promoting autophagy and ketogenesis through intermittent fasting
  • Stress reduction techniques like mindful meditation
  • Optimising sleep
  • Engaging in regular exercise
  • Maintaining vitamin D levels 
  • Increasing Nerve Growth Factor using lion’s mane mushroom 
  • Optimising antioxidant intake 
  • Addressing heavy metal toxicity 

Nine of the 10 Alzheimer’s patients who undertook the program displayed an improvement in cognition after 6 months. The one failure being a patient in a very late stage of the disease.

Six of the patients had had to discontinue working or were struggling with their jobs at the beginning of the program, and all were able to return to work by the end. 

Another study found the program effective at improving symptom scores of 100 Alzheimer’s patients, with many seeing an increase in hippocampal volume, the ability to spell returned, speech improved, and improvements in ability to shop, cook, and work at the computer. 

The underlying principle that makes these interventions effective is that they all improve metabolic health, which as we discussed earlier, is the foundation of brain health.

Can the ketogenic diet reverse Alzheimer’s?

There is little doubt that diet plays a crucial role in the development of Alzheimer’s. 

One recent review expands upon a previous hypothesis that links a survival mechanism that is stimulated by fructose consumption. Fructose is a type of sugar that, when eaten, induces insulin resistance which in turn helps preserve glucose for the brain. 

Early features of Alzheimer’s include reduced cerebral glucose metabolism, mitochondrial dysfunction, and neuroinflammation, which could all be caused by diets high in sugar, high-glycemic carbohydrates, and salt.

Recent evidence has also demonstrated that having type 2 diabetes significantly increases the risk of Alzheimer's.

The two common diseases share several metabolic dysfunctions, such as insulin resistance, impaired glucose metabolism, and mitochondrial defects. 

A ketogenic diet (which features little no sugar and carbohydrates) could, therefore, be a useful intervention in treating and preventing both type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s. 

Can lion’s mane mushroom reverse Alzheimer’s?

There is some promising research that suggests that lion's mane mushroom may have potential benefits for individuals with Alzheimer's disease.

Compounds present in lion’s mane called hericenones and erinacines have been shown to promote the production of nerve growth factor (NGF), which plays a crucial role in the growth, maintenance, and survival of neurons in the brain. 

By promoting the production of NGF and the growth of new brain cells, lion's mane mushroom may help protect against the degeneration of brain cells that occurs in Alzheimer's disease.

In 2020, researchers did a study to see if taking lion's mane mushroom supplements could help people with early Alzheimer's disease.

The study lasted for one year and involved two groups of people, both of which had early Alzheimer's symptoms.

The results showed that the people who took the lion's mane supplements had better brain function compared to those who didn't take them.

It also seemed like the mushroom supplement was safe and didn't cause any negative side effects for the Alzheimer's patients.

This study found that supplementation with lion's mane extract improved attention and cognitive function in individuals with mild cognitive impairment.

Another found that consuming lion's mane prevents cognitive dysfunction in healthy adults. 

In this study, researchers found that polysaccharides, which are a type of carbohydrate found in lion's mane mushroom, were able to reduce the damage caused to nerve cells by toxic chemicals that can harm the brain.

So while more research is needed to confirm these findings and to determine the optimal dosage, there is enough anecdotal and scientific research suggesting lion’s mane can help treat Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Learn more about lion’s mane here

Final thoughts

Alzheimer's disease is a complex and multifactorial condition. 

But we now know that its development and progression involves numerous metabolic dysfunctions, such as insulin resistance, mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation, and oxidative stress.

Recent research suggests that targeting these metabolic factors may be a promising approach to treat and potentially reverse Alzheimer's. 

Lifestyle interventions, such as a ketogenic diet, stress reduction, and optimising sleep, have shown potential in improving metabolic health and cognitive function. 

Additionally, natural compounds like lion's mane mushroom have demonstrated neuroprotective properties and may aid in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's. 

Of course, more research is needed to fully understand the underlying mechanisms and develop effective therapies. 

However, a holistic approach that considers the interplay between metabolism, gut health, and brain function holds great promise for treating, and potentially reversing, some cases of Alzheimer's disease.

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1 comment

Beautiful article and great approach. Thank you

Richard Sevestre

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