Alzheimer’s – fat may be a piece of the prevention, ‘reversal’ puzzle

Image: Gerd Altmann, Pixabay

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.

Brain fuel

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.

Amy Berger

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.

Elegant solutions

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.



  1. I have read Amy’s book and it’s very informative. Another book I recommend is Dale Bredesen’s recently published “The End of Alzheimer’s : The First Programme to Prevent and Reverse the Cognitive Decline of Dementia”. Dale is a Neurology Professor at UCLA, and has successfully used his RECODE protocol (previously titled MEND) to not only halt the progression of dementia but also reverse it in patients. His protocol involves LCHF diet, 8 hours sleep a night, fasting for a minimum of 12 hours overnight including 3 hours before bedtime to enable Ketosis and autophagy, B vitamins to reduce homocysteine, optimal vitamin C & D levels, other supplements and reducing Omega 6 fats and increasing Omega 3s. So not that different from Amy’s recommendations, but goes less into the nuts and bolts of a ketogenic diet and more into some other areas. One of the few areas of difference is Dale’s recommendation to reduce saturated fats other than MCT oils. Not sure why he does that, possibly he’s influenced by the cardiology mafia. Anyway I say read them both.

    Does any of this work to prevent Alzheimer’s ? I have no idea, but there’s nothing in either Amy’s or Dale’s protocols that’s going to hurt you and it might well prevent or at least slow down dementia. Since the one thing that everybody agrees on is that Alzheimers begins to attack the brain years before the symptoms appear, it seems a good idea to start implementing it in our own lives now. The worst that can happen is you’ll lose weight, prevent or reverse diabetes and so save your eyes and limbs, prevent cardiovascular disease and live longer and healthier. Anyone got a problem with that?

  2. OK, but the point is that there is still no scientific evidence about the cause of Alzheimer’s, though I also agree that it is sugar, carbs in general.

  3. I am so against statin drugs because of the terrible side effects and its questionable ‘benefits’. Memory loss (early onset Alzheimer’s?), arthritis, depression, the list goes on … I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression and due to my age (59) the doc insisted I should take Lipitor. I questioned this, knowing the side effects, he said that having high cholesterol can also be a factor in depression … What the f……????!!!!

    • I’d say your doctor is depressed and delusional. Must be all the statins he’s taking – I’m only half joking. First I’ve heard of high cholesterol as a factor in depression.

  4. If I’d read this article a few years ago I’d have thought it was bonkers, but eventually after months of reading science about cholesterol, statins and diet I finally realised that the low-fat diet was based on almost nothing at all. It was not much better than one big guess to find an answer for heart disease that excluded all the contradictory evidence and didn’t even consider smoking. This low-fat experiment has resulted in a colossal public health disaster.

    One fine January day two years ago, I abandoned low-fat products and bought eggs, butter, coconut oil and full fat everything for the first time in years. I started eating the fat on my bacon instead of cutting it off. Not easy to begin with, so deep was the fat aversion. All those sugar and grain-based products went into the bin. And the result? Within a week I felt a huge surge of mental and physical energy. Strange things began to happen such as old and dark skin blemishes turning to a normal skin colour. A slight tremor in my left hand disappeared.

    Two years later, for the first time, I no longer eat three meals a day. I lost ten pounds without the slightest effort and most days I can easily fast for 14 – 18 hours. For the first time in my life I control my appetite rather than it controlling me. Despite these huge benefits dietitians, usually overweight and not very bright, tell me that this isn’t the way to eat. I try to show them the science and tell them how much better I feel, but they have a comforting, simple dogma to cling to. It’s just too much for them to accept that their whole careers have been spent giving terrible advice that pushes people towards obesity and diabetes. They go to work each day and hurt new people and the taxpayer pays them to do it.

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