Healthy Aging

The End of Alzheimer’s? Dale Bredesen Says It’s Doable



The statistics are sobering. More than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and that toll could rise to 16 million by 2050. Perhaps the scariest fact: every 66 seconds, someone in the US develops Alzheimer’s.

It doesn’t have to be so says Dale E. Bredesen, MD, whose new book, “The End of Alzheimer’s,” bears the bold subtitle, “The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline.”

His Alzheimer’s prevention program is based on lifestyle changes to guard against or even reverse the disease—and it runs counter to prevailing wisdom in the medical community.

Bredesen is well known in his field. He’s a professor of neurology at UCLA and the founding president of the Buck Institute on Aging.

The basis of his book and his long years of research is his belief that Alzheimer’s is not one condition, as people think, but three distinct types of condition that may be caused by any number of imbalances (types 1 and 2) or toxicity from exposure to mercury or biotoxins, for example (type 3).

Bredesen’s concept of how Alzheimer’s develops differs from the traditional view. For decades, he says, many experts have clung to the amyloid hypothesis. They believe that Alzheimer’s disease occurs when sticky plaques made up of a protein known as amyloid-beta accumulate in the brain. In this model of the disease process, the amyloid-beta destroys the synapses, which are crucial in helping nerve cells communicate. But Bredesen believes that amyloid is only produced after the brain is invaded by pathogens. The amyloid buildup is simply a protective mechanism, he says, and when its production goes into overdrive, the synapses are destroyed and Alzheimer’s develops.

The goal, then, is to prevent the invasion of the brain by pathogens—or to reverse it if it’s already started.

How can we protect our brains? Bredesen says cognitive decline can be the result of any of three dozen factors—or ”holes in the roof,” as he terms them. By abandoning the one-size-fits-all approach to Alzheimer’s, we can guard against many of these factors on an individual level through lifestyle practices such as better sleep, lower stress levels, more activity and changes to diet. We can also correct imbalances when they occur.

In his program, Bredesen evaluates each person individually. He runs tests to identify the factors that may be affecting the person—such as inflammation, hormonal status, vitamin levels and potential toxins. The personalized regimen he then recommends is based on lifestyle adjustments. It is meant to both prevent brain decline and to restore brain functioning by correcting imbalances.

In “The End of Alzheimer’s” he spells out his method and describes the adjustments—diet is critical among them—that can fix those holes in the roof.

For more details, Senior Planet caught up with Bredesen by phone.

Senior Planet: When did you begin to think of Alzheimer’s in this way?

Dale Bredesen: I was very interested as a neurologist in learning and memory, and what goes wrong when you have cognitive decline. This was in the ‘80s. Neurologists are wonderful diagnosticians but are very poor at making people better. So I left clinical practice and went full time to the lab.

For 28 years in the lab, we’ve been looking at the basic nature of the degenerative process. We’ve found 36 factors that feed into this crucial brain balance. How you eat, how you live your life, are you overweight, are you sedentary…. There is more and more evidence that these are absolutely crucial for your cognition.

Senior Planet: Your first publication, in 2014 in the Journal Aging, showed that 9 of 10 patients on your program had cognitive improvement within three to six months. Can you describe someone who had success in this early group?

Dale Bredesen: A woman who I call Patient Zero was told she had early onset Alzheimer’s—she was in memory care. Luckily she wasn’t too far along in the process of cognitive decline. She had a number of the 36 factors.

Three months after she started the program, I got a call at home, and she said, “I am back to normal.” She has addressed 12 of the 36 factors, and she’s 73 now.

Senior Planet: You say that optimal hormone levels are critical to brain balance and you recommend bioidentical hormones for women you think need HRT. It’s one aspect of the program that’s controversial—you acknowledge that experts debate the wisdom of this, with studies linking an increased risk of breast cancer with HRT. Are you saying that breast cancer is ”not as bad” as getting Alzheimer’s?

Dale Bredesen: Hormones levels play a critical role in cognition. Yes, this can mean that you may have to choose between cognitive decline and the risk for hormone-associated cancer. One husband said that he and his wife would monitor her status regarding cancer, but that they’d both rather do that than continue to watch her cognitive decline.

Senior Planet: The regimen isn’t simple. For instance, one woman who shared her routine in the book gets seven or eight hours’ sleep religiously, avoids toxins in cosmetics, takes a variety of supplements, walks an hour a day, does yoga twice a week, fasts for 15 hours a night, does brain training and has a no-frills diet rich in vegetables. Will people follow this?

Dale Bredesen: When people start getting very mild cognitive impairment, they’ll have the incentive. Right now what keeps people away is thinking they can do nothing.

Senior Planet: What’s next?

Dale Bredesen: Over 1,000 people are on the program now, and about 150 of these are being followed actively. Many other physicians now have their own patients on the protocol—we’ve trained 450 practitioners from seven countries and all over the US.

We’re now putting together a manuscript on 50 of the 150 who are being followed, to be published in a medical journal. And we’re working on starting a randomized clinical trial.


What do others think of this upstart view? Michael Merzenich, PhD, is professor emeritus at UC San Francisco, the winner of the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience and an expert on brain plasticity. He says that the book ”should provide much of the basis for a revolution in brain health medicine.” Merzenich, who is working with Bredesen’s team, tells Senior Planet: “I think he’s onto something big, for several reasons.” Among them, he says, is that measurements of chemical indicators in the blood that reflect brain health are easy to do, and the deficiencies can be fixed. And although there is no randomized clinical trial—science’s gold standard—he points out that Bredesen has had good results both in patients with early Alzheimer’s and in those with mild cognitive impairment, which precedes AD.

The Alzheimer’s Association is less enthused but doesn’t write off Bredesen’s program. Citing small numbers of patients so far, Maria C. Carrillo, PhD, the association’s chief science officer, urges caution. But she adds that this type of approach is “intriguing” because it suggests possibilities for the value of a healthy lifestyle to maintain cognition—something the association promotes.


5 responses to “The End of Alzheimer’s? Dale Bredesen Says It’s Doable

  1. I appreciate so much your synthesis of Dr. Bredesen’s book and your questions to him. As the daughter of two parents with dementia (my father recently died from Alzheimer’s and my mother has vascular dementia) I am intensely interested in prevention. For me the scientific explanations were fascinating and motivating. In the sea of advice concerning living healthfully, I found the structure and focus of the cognoscopy–an extensive battery of metabolic tests that Bredesen says we all should have by age 45–helpful for creating my action steps. I have started a non-commercial website that is a DIY Dementia-prevention community ( so that we can share our ideas for making healthy living more manageable and affordable.

  2. This book is way too complex for a normal consumer. Seemed like a lot of the doctor’s research included that wasn’t really necessary consumer information. I purchased it for $27 plus tax and will now just donate to the local library. Dr. Perlmutter’s “The Better Brain Book” is way more user friendly and has the necessary nutritional and supplemental information needed.

  3. My experience with my own and my Children’s autoimmune disorders proved to me that Dr. Bredesen’s approach is a lot like the holistic, whole food, paleo diet, etc. which all help with improving overall health and disease prevention. So to me there should be no controversy in this approach. I watched on Dr. Oz who asks why is this not more widely known or pushed to general medical community, shared with the public. The controversy comes from the traditional medical community who have been trained to believe that diet has little impact on health or at least to reverse diseases. Also, this approach reduces pharmaceutical profits because they are depending on doctors prescribing medications that only cause more health problems. There needs to be an outcry from the public that it is not acceptable that we are not given this information first to help us understand how we cannot only minimize symptoms, but also prevent diseases from developing without drugs. Additionally, for a country that has such enormous wealth compared to the rest of the world, we are so unhealthy and starving ourselves nutritionally and spiritually. God created us in his image, to show love, grace and compassion to one another, to be good stewards of our environment, and to treat our body as his holy temple. He are not treating our bodies as his holy temple when we pollute it with foods and drugs that destroys the body unnecessarily. The saddest thing about all of this is that we are fed the lies upon lies about food, drugs and God and many believe the lies. We need to get back to how God designed us to live in a healthy manner, as he prescribed it, nourishing ourselves at the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual level-the whole person. Our legislators should be including in healthcare reform to include coverage to test, diagnose, analyse and treat from a more holistic, integrated approach for prevention and maximum health. This will prevent the enormous costs put on the medical system, which should drive insurance costs down.

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