Reversing cognitive decline

iron shrinks the brain

3d rendered illustration of the human brain anatomy

Cognitive decline will always accompany aging to some extent; if aging means the deterioration of the body and its organs and tissues, it’s unreasonable to think that the brain will be spared. Declines in intelligence are probably already underway by the decade of one’s 20s or 30s. In one study, by age 45-49, men experienced a cognitive decline, that is a decline in intelligence, of 3.6%, which rose to nearly 10% by age 65.
One lesson of this, in my opinion, is that it’s never too early to be concerned about one’s mental function. Essential to preserving brain function is good physical health, which necessarily entails good brain health.

However, depending on genetic makeup and other factors, some parts of the body will begin to lose function sooner than others, and when the brain begins to fail noticeably, then dementia or Alzheimer’s or other forms of cognitive decline exist. It’s bad enough when this happens in the very elderly, but it is doubly tragic for a person in his 50s or 60s. This happens often enough. Can anything be done about it? Yes.

There’s a fascinating new paper in the journal Aging by Dale E. Bredesen, M.D., Reversal of cognitive decline: A novel therapeutic program, in which the author describes significant reversal of poor brain function in nine of ten people who undertook his program. (The one who did not improve had late stage Alzheimer’s.) Many of these people were not what we would consider elderly, but were in their 50s or 60s and experiencing enough decline in brain function that they were no longer able to work. Let’s look at a few of the treatment modalities that were used.

  • Sleep. This was optimized so that the subject would sleep 8 hours a night. Melatonin and tryptophan were used when necessary to promote restful sleep.
  • Fasting. Subjects fasted a minimum of 12 hours a day. This amount of fasting is in reality just the normal amount that virtually everyone used to fast between dinner and breakfast, and is not terribly long. Longer fasts, 16 hours or more, ought to be even more beneficial. Fasting upregulates autophagy, which literally cleans the brain of junk.
  • Low carbohydrate diet. Subjects ate a diet that was grain-free and low in simple carbs, in order to minimize insulin resistance. This will also help lose body fat; obesity is a risk factor for cognitive decline.
  • Exercise. 30 to 60 minutes a day, 4 to 6 days a week. Exercise improves brain volume and plasticity.
  • Methylation protocol, consisting of methyl B12, l-methylfolate, and pyridoxal phosphate. These are all special forms of B vitamins, available over-the-counter. This protocol will lower levels of homocysteine, which is a risk factor for cognitive decline.
  • Hormone balance. This included not only ensuring proper levels of thyroid hormones, but also, for men, testosterone if needed, and female hormones for women.
  • Coconut oil, which provides medium-chain triglycerides, and has been shown to improve brain function by aiding ketosis.
  • Supplements. Other supplements included vitamins D and K2, selenium, zinc, resveratrol, n-acetylcysteine, and omega-3 fatty acids.

The results were remarkable, with 9 of 10 patients experiencing noticeable improvement, and many who had been unable to work were able to return. From the paper:

Results from the 10 patients reported here suggest that memory loss in patients with subjective cognitive impairment, mild cognitive impairment, and at least the early phase of Alzheimer’s disease, may be reversed, and improvement sustained, with the therapeutic program described here. This is the first such demonstration. However, at the current time the results are anecdotal, and therefore a more extensive, controlled clinical trial is warranted.


The results reported here are compatible with the notion that metabolic status represents a crucial, and readily manipulable, determinant of plasticity…

Cognitive decline is not inevitable and in at least some cases may be effectively treated or even reversed.


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the Revision Division says November 12, 2014

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