FDA, Dementias and Alzheimer’s will increase fivefold in next 40 years

February 24, 2012

Alzheimer's and Dementia, Health

The Alzheimer’s Association projects that between 2010 and 2050, the total costs of care for Americans age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease will increase fivefold, from $172 billion to $1.08 trillion per year.

by Mary Budinger — 

The Alzheimer’s Association projects that between 2010 and 2050, the total cost of care for Americans age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease will increase fivefold, from $172 billion to $1.08 trillion per year. These dollar amounts represent the direct cost of care to all payers, including Medicare, Medicaid, out-of-pocket costs to people with the conditions and their families, and costs to other payers such as private insurance, HMOs and other managed care organizations and uncompensated care. Approximately one-half of all nursing-home residents in the U.S. have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Currently, there are no known treatments to prevent, cure or even delay the onset or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The five medications that are approved for Alzheimer’s disease by the FDA temporarily reduce symptoms for some, but they cannot change the underlying course of the disease.

A recent Framingham heart study demonstrated that as you get older, blood flow to your brain drops and begins to flow less efficiently. Blood carries vital nutrients that help nourish the brain. Researchers examined more than 1,500 middle-aged and older people, and found that people whose hearts pump more blood to the brain are less likely to experience brain shrinkage than those with hearts pumping less. Brain-training therapies like “BrainAdvantage” use biofeedback to increase the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain.

Vitamin B12 deficiency mimics many of the features of old age — ataxia (shaky movements and unsteady gait), muscle weakness, spasticity, incontinence, slowed reactions, memory loss, disorientation, depression and confusion. This gives rise to the school of thought that Alzheimer’s is largely a vitamin B12 deficiency. One of the most important nutrients we get from animal foods is vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 works with folic acid in many body processes, including the myelin sheath that surrounds nerve cells and facilitates the signaling abilities of the nervous system. Severe depletion manifests as pernicious anemia. But long before that sets in, other conditions manifest, ranging from numbness, sleep disorders and memory loss to irrational anger and impaired mental function.

The B12 from animal protein enters the stomach and must first be liberated by pepsin and hydrochloric acid. Absorption is a complex process. Deficiencies in pepsin, hydrochloric acid, R-protein, pancreatic enzymes, intrinsic factor, calcium and cell receptors can all lead to a B12 deficiency through blocked absorption. The elderly especially may develop deficiencies even though they are getting enough B12 from their food.

Vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal foods such as liver, kidney, meat, fish, shellfish, milk products and eggs. According to Dr. John Dommisse, an expert in B12 deficiency, the acceptance of high levels as normal in Japan and the willingness to readily treat psychiatric symptoms with B12 explains the low rates of Alzheimer’s dementia in that country, as well as explains the reason for the very high rates of Alzheimer’s in the United States.

In one research study, 61 percent of patients with mental impairment had complete recovery with supplementation. Investigators speculated that those who did not recover had suffered from deficiency for so long that damage to the nervous system had become irreversible.

Supplementation results in little improvement for those who have had full blown Alzheimer’s symptoms for greater than six months. Thus, routine early testing for B12 levels has the potential to prevent mental decline in the vast majority of the elderly. By the time Alzheimer’s is conclusively diagnosed, it may be too late for supplementation to be effective.

The Weston A. Price Foundation also raises the issue of natural, non-hydrogenated coconut oil. The body produces ketone bodies from coconut oil, and these can serve as food for the brain and nervous system when our cells develop insulin resistance, which happens in everyone to a greater or lesser extent as we age. With insulin resistance, ketone bodies derived from coconut oil appear to protect neurons when glucose is not available.

Resources:

Alzheimer’s Association. “Changing the Trajectory of Alzheimer’s Disease: A National Imperative,” 2010

American Heart Association Inc. “Cardiac Index Is Associated With Brain Aging: The Framingham Heart Study,” Circulation 2010;122:690-697

Weston A. Price Foundation

 

Mary Budinger is an Emmy award-winning journalist who writes about complementary and alternative medicine. She and Dr. Martha Grout are the authors of Alphabet of Good Health. 602-494-1999.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 30, Number 1, Feb/Mar 2011.

 

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