Reversing Memory & Thinking Problems Through Lifestyle

The following is a transcript from an episode of the Pointers podcast on Apple Podcasts. Pointers discusses the science that points to vibrant health and provides pointers for getting there.

Today, I’d like to talk about a research article that presents a therapeutic program for reversing cognitive decline, which refers to memory and thinking problems. I’d like to talk about this article because the program contains essentially many of The Simple Seven body basics, as well as addressing other topics that are presented in The Simple Seven book. Now, this is really powerful stuff. And, for clarification, I’m not suggesting that the 7 body basics can reverse cognitive problems on their own, but it turns out that the 7 body basics play an integral role in this particular therapeutic program. That’s exciting, because it points to the possibility of the body basics playing an integral role in other health problems and therapeutic programs. 

The research article is published on aging-us.com. It’s written by Dr. Dale E. Bredesen, an MD who studied at Caltech and got his medical degree from Duke University. He’s internationally recognized as an expert in the mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. This research article that he published in 2014, is entitled, “Reversal of Cognitive Decline: A Novel Therapeutic Program.” And I emphasize the word, reversal in the title: Reversal of cognitive decline. In this article, he discusses a therapeutic program he designed that’s based on the metabolic processes that affect cognition degeneration. He figured out how to optimize specific metabolic processes. You can think of metabolic processes as different types of body functioning. This program does not include the use of medications. The article includes some case studies, and I’ll present one of them in a moment.

Now, the person who sent this research article to me said something interesting. She and I had talked about some of her own cognitive problems and some recommendations I’d made for her, in the context of the 7 body basics. If you’re joining me today for the first time, I encourage to go back and listen to the first podcast where I talk about how when we give our bodies what they need through a healthy lifestyle, which can be achieved by doing the 7 body basics, that the body will tap into and trigger additional healing, reparative and regenerative mechanisms. I made the recommendations to her with this in mind. So, not saying that I expected any type of recovery. Simply, the idea was to help her body to function better. Well, she’d sent me the article because she found it uncanny, and these are her words, that he and I had come up with something very similar, but had arrived at it in two different ways.

An analogy can help to explain what that means. In the same way that we use the buttons on a television to operate it, we use the buttons of the body basics to operate our bodies. In other words, you and I don’t need to understand the details of how a television or our bodies work in order to use them. We just press the buttons. And yet, an electrical engineer understands how a television is designed and how the internal electronics make the television work. Likewise Dr. Bredesen understands the details of specific metabolic processes within the body that affect cognition. His understanding and approach is considerably more detailed and thorough whereas the body basics tap into the same underlying mechanisms, albeit in a general way. But keep in mind that the doctor’s program is designed to treat a specific, serious illness whereas the 7 body basics are not. And yet that doesn’t lessen their significance. 

So, I’d like to read a little from this research article. I’d like to begin with a summary of the case studies which is presented in the abstract section. It says:

The first 10 patients who have utilized this program include patients with memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive impairments. Nine of the 10 displayed improvement in cognition beginning within 3-6 months, with the one failure being a patient with very late stage Alzheimer’s Disease. Six of the patients had had to discontinue working or were struggling with their jobs at the time of presentation, and all were able to return to work or continue working with improved performance. Improvements have been sustained, and at this time the longest patient follow-up is two and one-half years from initial treatment, with sustained and marked improvement.

Note: with regard to the age of the subjects, a few are age 55, but most are in their 60s and 70s.

In looking at the therapeutic system, the goals include things like optimizing diet, reducing stress, optimizing sleep, and incorporating exercise. And then it gets into specifics such as reducing inflammation and insulin resistance; checking the levels of stress, thyroid, and reproductive hormones; checking the levels of vitamins B12, B6, D3, K2, and folic acid; checking DHA/EFA omega 3 fatty acid levels which are brain food; ensuring nocturnal oxygenation by correcting sleep apnea which interrupts breathing and getting sufficient oxygen; evaluating GI (gastrointestinal) health and repairing with probiotics, which are live bacteria that make up a healthy internal flora, and prebiotics, which are food for the probiotics; excluding heavy metal toxicity of mercury, lead and cadmium, which cause neurological damage; optimizing antioxidants, and finally, eating coconut oil.

Nearly all of these things back into the 7 body basics or are presented in supplementary topics in The Simple Seven book, with the exception of checking the levels of things like hormones and vitamins. But again, remember that this therapeutic program is designed to treat a specific, serious illness. 

But now I’m going to back these things into the 7 body basics so you’ll understand what I mean.

Body Basic #1 is about diet: Eat fresh food. Basically, cutting out processed food. There’s a lot to understand about processed food. Even the coconut oil that’s a part of this program, coconut oil is a natural blood thinner, by the way, needs to be unrefined and cold-pressed, raw if possible. Refined coconut oil is processed. The Simple Seven book includes an extensive discussion of processed foods that include white rice, pasteurized milk, and table salt. Eating a few pieces of fruit a day for their antioxidants, but no more, to keep sugar levels down, and eating no more than 1/2 cup of grains, both minimize inflammation and insulin resistance. Eating wild caught fish instead of farm-raised fish as a good source of protein and for the omega 3s. There’s considerably more to talk about with regard to diet and it’s all in the book.

Body Basic #3 is about exercise: To keep moving. And to move vigorously, which raises your heart rate and works up a sweat. Dr. Bredesen’s prescription for exercise is 30-60 minutes a day, 4-6 days a week. That’s incredible. Don’t forget, we’re talking about individuals who are in their 60s and 70s. Many adults in their 30s and 40s, even their 20s, don’t exercise that much. But here’s one reason why it’s so important. Reading from The Simple Seven book, “Brain cells can regenerate, and moving vigorously is now recognized as the strongest-known stimulus to produce new brain cells. That’s according to an article that was published in Forbes magazine in 2013, entitled, “How Exercise Can Make Your Brain Grow.” And btw, keeping those brain cells requires using them! Keeping your brain active reading, for example. 

Body Basic #4 is about sleep: Getting enough restful sleep. The program prescribes melatonin and tryptophan, if necessary, and addresses sleep apnea which also pertains to Body Basic #5 which regards breathing and obtaining enough oxygen. Taken together, these measures help to increase the number of hours of sleep and restful sleep. It’s common for the elderly to sleep fewer than 8 hours, when in fact, they need that much like any other adult. Last week I told you about how it’s only during sleep that the brain flushes out waste that is thought to lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease when it builds up in between brain cells. That’s why sleep is especially important for the elderly, but also for everyone.

Body Basic #7 is about reducing stress: Do what makes you feel good. The program encourages a personalized approach: meditation, yoga, listening to music, and so on. As discussed in The Simple Seven book, doing what makes you feel good stimulates your body to produce feel-good neurotransmitters — seratonin, dopamine, oxytocin — that also enhance your health.

The Simple Seven book also discusses how to repair the GI tract that goes beyond taking probiotics and prebiotics, to detoxing, though detoxing may not be appropriate for everyone. Eating your probiotics, in fermented foods, such as fermented vegetables — Kim chi and sauerkraut, for example, as long as they’re not pasteurized — and drinking fermented beverages, such as kefir and kombucha. The book also talks about natural ways of detoxing heavy metals. It discusses obtaining vitamin D naturally through safe exposure to the sun. Taking a multi-vitamin, a multi-mineral, and fish oil pills everyday. Everyone should do this. The fact is, even organic food isn’t as nutritious as it can be, so most of the time, we’re all coming up short on vitamins, minerals, and the omega 3s through our diet. And so much more.

Now the basics that don’t appear to be included in the program are:

Body Basic #2: Staying hydrated by drinking water. Water is a nutrient that the body needs to do everything. And Body Basic #6: Clear your bowel everyday. It’s important that the body clears its waste. A clear bowel signals the rest of the body to clear its waste, 

Here’s one case study from the research article that I’d like to read to you.  

A 67-year-old woman presented with two years of progressive memory loss. She held a demanding job that involved preparing analytical reports and traveling widely, but found herself no longer able to analyze data or prepare the reports, and therefore was forced to consider quitting her job. She noted that when she would read, by the time she reached the bottom of a page she would have to start at the top once again, since she was unable to remember the material she had just read. She was no longer able to remember numbers, and had to write down even 4-digit numbers to remember them. She also began to have trouble navigating on the road: even on familiar roads, she would become lost trying to figure out where to enter or exit the road. She also noticed that she would mix up the names of her pets, and forget where the light switches were in her home of years.

Her mother had developed similar progressive cognitive decline beginning in her early 60s, had become severely demented, entered a nursing home, and died at approximately 80 years of age. When the patient consulted her physician about her problems, she was told that she had the same problem her mother had had, and that there was nothing he could do about it. He wrote “memory problems” in her chart, and therefore the patient was turned down in her application for long-term care.

After being informed that she had the same problem as her mother had had, she recalled the many years of her mother's decline in a nursing home. Knowing that there was still no effective treatment and subsequently losing the ability to purchase long-term care, she decided to commit suicide. She called a friend to commiserate, who suggested that she get on a plane and visit, and then referred her for evaluation for this program.

She began the program and was able to adhere to some but not all of the protocol components. Nonetheless, after three months she noted that all of her symptoms had abated: she was able to navigate without problems, remember telephone numbers without difficulty, prepare reports and do all of her work without difficulty, read and retain information, and, overall, she became asymptomatic. She noted that her memory was now better than it had been in many years. On one occasion, she developed an acute viral illness, discontinued the program, and noticed a decline, which reversed when she reinstated the program. Two and one-half years later, now age 70, she remains asymptomatic and continues to work full-time.

Let’s review what she did in this program:

  1. She eliminated all simple carbohydrates, leading to a weight loss of 20 pounds. Simple carbohydrates are foods that convert to sugar quickly. The article doesn’t specify which simple carbs she eliminated. They could’ve been sugar and sugary foods, such as candy, cakes, and cookies. Flour-based foods such as bread, pasta, and crackers. Even fruit and fruit juices. Body Basic #1: Eat Fresh Food

  2. She eliminated gluten and processed food from her diet, and increased vegetables, fruits, and non-farmed fish. Again, a part of Body Basic #1: Eat Fresh Food

  3. In order to reduce stress, she began yoga, and ultimately became a yoga instructor. Body Basic #7 Do what makes you feel good and Body Basic #3 Keep Moving

  4. As a second measure to reduce the stress of her job, she began to meditate for 20 minutes twice per day; Body Basic #7 Do what makes you feel good

  5. She took melatonin increased her sleep from 4-5 hours per night to 7-8 hours per night; This helps with Body Basic #4: Get enough restful sleep

  6. She took vitamin B12 which also has to do with Body Basic #1: Eat fresh food. In The Simple Seven book, I talk about how most people should probably eat at least one serving of animal food a day, in order to obtain sufficient Vitamin B12 and the B vitamins which help to mitigate stress. It was indicated that this subject’s job was stressful.

  7. She took a vitamin D3 supplement every day. In the book, I recommend working with a trained professional if you feel you need to take additional supplements beyond the basic multi vitamins and minerals and omega 3s.

  8. She took fish oil pills every day; I mentioned earlier that everyone should take fish oil pills.

  9. She took CoQ10 200mg each day; According to the article, this has to do with optimizing mitochondrial function. It is not discussed in The Simple Seven, bu

  10. She optimized her oral hygiene using an electric flosser and electric toothbrush; The Simple Seven book discusses oral hygiene.

  11. Following discussion with her primary care provider, she reinstated HRT (hormone replacement therapy) that had been discontinued following the WHI report in 2002; This is not discussed in The Simple Seven book but regulating hormones is.

  12. She fasted for a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, and for a minimum of three hours between dinner and bedtime; Fasting in this way is discussed in The Simple Seven book.

  13. She exercised for a minimum of 30 minutes, 4-6 days per week. We just talked about this, as it relates to Body Basic #3: Keep moving.



Pretty exciting, right? Pretty exciting that nearly all of the subjects were able to improve, sustain, and in many cases, reverse their cognitive problems.

Some final notes about the research article. First, it states that a larger, more extensive trial is warranted, as there were only 10 subjects in this study. Second, the results also raise the possibility that such a therapeutic system may be useful as a platform in cases where medications fail. And the research article cites how, at least in 2014 when this was published, that medications just weren’t working.

So, there you have it. The 7 body basics helping to prevent cognitive decline.

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The information in this blog post is to be used for educational purposes only. It is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional medical advice or to prevent, cure, or heal any illness or disease. You should always see your doctor or health practitioner.