Looming, Worst Ever Epidemic?

By Thomas Rosenberg, MD

By Thomas Rosenberg, MD

 After our 2nd PBU Symposium last October in the Salt Palace, Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai requested an opportunity to meet with individuals concerned about the Alzheimer’s epidemic in our state. Both Sherzais have been passionately focused on Alzheimer’s Disease research for the last 15 years (The Alzheimer’s Solution).

We were held in rapt attention:

  • Alzheimer’s disease is the #1 cause of death in the UK, and now in Japan (USA soon).

  • AD (Alzheimer’s/Dementia) is the most feared of all diseases.

  • AD is suspected or diagnosed woefully late in its course.

  • The solutions of AD will not come through doctors and their medical schools! (Dean is on faculty at Loma Linda University Medical School).

  • Prevention is our only intelligent solution, and it must begin early in life, by age 50 or even by age 40!

  • Prevention can even protect individuals whose DNA contains copies of the ApoE4 (Alzheimer’s) gene. No one should assume that their DNA will cause cognitive impairment.

Will new, effective drugs be available to reverse the disease? Of course not.  More than 120 proposed Alzheimer’s drugs have gone through research trials; not a single one has reversed minimal cognitive impairment (“pre-Alzheimer’s”), let alone Alzheimer’s/dementia. Big Pharma giant Pfizer has recently announced that they will no longer devote any drug development resources to Alzheimer’s Disease (https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/08/576443442/pfizer-halts-research-efforts-into-alzheimers-and-parkinsons-treatments).

I need to make two additional points. First, prevention is lifestyle, especially a lifestyle that embodies whole foods, plant-based nutrition. Organic, naturally occurring veggies/legumes/fruits, many high in fiber are by far the greatest factor[1]. Sugar and refined carbs are the enemy. Sources rich in the omega-3s DLA and EPA like chia, hemp, flaxseeds, Brussel sprouts, sea vegetables, etc are recommended (some experts also recommend fish). Vegans and other avoiders of fish should have their omega-3 levels tested, perhaps every three years.  Keto diets do not prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Other factors including sleep, exercise, body composition, social interaction, cognitive engagement are certainly important. However, WFPB nutrition must be adhered.

Second, since developing the Fitness Institute at LDS Hospital in 1980, I have been passionate about preventing hypertension, obesity, cancer, anxiety, low back and other postural diseases - even osteoarthritis. Trust me… nothing looms more ominously than Alzheimer’s/dementia. You or your loved one will lose personal identity. The economic and emotional cost to caregivers, often family, can be enormous. Care costs over $100,000 per year are no longer unusual. “Family fortunes” can disappear all outside the control of the individual or individuals who worked so hard to provide for economic security of their family. Declining cognition robs an individual of his or her ability/dignity to make end-of-life decisions. Ironically, we physicians are now capable of extending the lives of Alzheimer’s patients longer (currently averaging eight years).

 

 Like Drs. Sherzai and so many others, this preventable disease scares me the most. Our minds and personalities are our greatest gift. Plant Based Utah is dedicated to the earliest prevention for everyone. I, like Drs. Sherzai and so many others, agree that our brains and minds are our basis. As the Zen Buddhist masters have taught,  “All is mind; mind is all.”


[1] Superior diets including vegan, DASH, Mind, Mediterranean, Vegetarian, Pescatarian, anti-inflammatory – all have their proponents. All can be considered 80%+ whole foods, plant-based.