By Marika Sboros
Alzheimer’s – the word is enough to strike terror in the hardiest of hearts and minds. Doctors often call Alzheimer’s disease the “thief of the mind”. That’s an apt analogy because the disease steals its victims from their family, their friends and themselves.
The Alzheimer’s Antidote, by US nutrition specialist Amy Berger, is a game-changer. The subtitle speaks volumes: Using a Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet to Fight Alzheimer’s Disease, Memory Loss, and Cognitive Decline.
Her book is a welcome antidote to the medical profession’s pervasive pessimism about age and declining brain function.
Berger draws on an exciting, relatively new path of scientific research. Best of all, she offers safe, effective and cheap dietary and lifestyle changes to prevent Alzheimer’s. Bergers also offers hope for ways to reverse the worst of its symptoms.
She takes a look at compelling science behind the metabolic model of nutrition-related disease. And as a result, the solutions on which her book is based are also metabolic.
Berger uses current medical literature to make a strong case for Alzheimer’s as largely a problem of brain fuel metabolism. In other words, the brain isn’t getting enough of the right nutrients to generate energy. As a result, this prevents brain functions from flowing smoothly.
She shows how an evidence-based metabolic strategy effectively restores energy utilisation in the brain.
Berger restores cholesterol to its rightful glory as a major player in building, maintaining and repairing delicate brain cells. She calls cholesterol the “brain’s best friend”. She also highlights the devastating effects of sugar and carbohydrates on brain function.
As well, Berger gives the best foods to boost the way brain cells naturally power themselves.
She also gives the worst foods. It’s no coincidence that these form the basis of conventional, low-fat, high-carb dietary guidelines. The same guidelines which the US launched onto an unsuspecting public in 1977, without science to back them up. Thus, Berger shows how bad sugar and other carbs are for brain function.
A welcome for ‘healthful fat’
Her book, therefore, directly challenges the “amyloid hypothesis” – that a build-up of a sticky brain protein fragment, beta-amyloid, causes plaque build-up that eventually causes Alzheimer’s.
In a foreword to the book, US neurologist Dr David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain focuses on Berger’s dietary advice. She “welcomes healthful fat back to the table while virtually eliminating sugar and refined carbohydrates”, he says.
Click here to read: Can right diet prevent dementia?
Perlmutter makes a shocking observation. He says that research efforts focused on the amyloid hypothesis “have almost uniformly intensified the rate of cognitive decline in human subjects”.
The fact is that foods we eat interact continually with our DNA, he writes. They change our gene expression from “moment to moment, for better or worse”.
In this sense, food is “information”, he says. Food choices provide instructions to our DNA. These instructions regulate processes such inflammation, detoxification, and antioxidant production. These processes are critical for health or decay of the brain.
Berger’s solution “specifically targets gene expression”, Perlmutter says. It can calm inflammation and rid the body of potentially brain-damaging toxins. It can also increase the production of brain-protective antioxidants.
These gene pathways exist in all of us, he says. They are “ready to participate in protecting, enhancing, and even restoring brain functionality”.
Berger effectively “harvests our most highly regarded scientific research to create an empowering, user-friendly game plan”. It is one that “rewrites our health destiny as it relates to the brain”, Perlmutter says.
No drug ‘breakthroughs’
The lack of progress in drugs to treat the condition is one factor that motivated Berger to write the book. That lack is both “discouraging and disheartening”, she says. And consequently, the best advice doctors and therapists have to offer is to “keep the mind active” by having new hobbies, doing crossword or Sudoku puzzles or learning foreign languages.
To imply that crosswords and Sudoku puzzles can prevent something as devastating as Alzheimer’s is “irresponsible and downright insulting”, Berger says.
“Cognitive decline is not inevitable as you age,” she says.
Alzheimer’s and its precursor, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), are complex, multifactorial conditions that require multifactorial solutions, she writes. However, that doesn’t mean potential solutions must be equally complex.
Solutions require understanding the biochemical and physiological aberrations underlying brain changes that result in Alzheimer’s and MCI. Thereafter, solutions become “self-evident and quite elegant”, she says.
Berger takes readers on a remarkable journey of four paths in this. The first is an exploration of the metabolic origins of Alzheimer’s disease.
Click here to read: Coconut oil – why it is good for hearts and minds
She makes crucial connections between modern diet and lifestyle and how Alzheimer’s develops and addresses key factors. These include brain fuel metabolism and chronically elevated insulin levels from excess sugar and carbohydrate intake. She also explains why dementia diseases have become common and why doctors call dementia type 3 diabetes – because of the documented link with diet.
She devotes the second section of the book to nutrition to restore healthy cognition. The third looks at lifestyle factors, such as stress, exercise and sleep and brain function. She also looks at intermittent fasting to “clean house” and boost the brain’s best fuel sources, known as ketones.
Road map to prevent dementia
The final section is a “roadmap” for readers to steer clear of Alzheimer’s. Prevention is, after all, always so much better than cure.
Her intended audience is people with MCI or Alzheimer’s and loved ones and caregivers. Consequently, she has simplified explanations of relevant biochemical and physiological mechanisms.
Her book is not just for the layperson. It is also for doctors and dietitians who believe that lifestyle can’t prevent or treat Alzheimer’s effectively. Therefore, my only concern about this book is that those doctors and dietitians won’t read it.
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