Reversing Cognitive Decline Through Diet and Lifestyle Basics

Previously I wrote about the study conducted by Dr Dale Bredesen of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging about a pioneering small-scale study that seems to have reversed the cognitive decline and memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The small-scale study took 10 people suffering from mild cognitive decline and early Alzheimer’s and put them on a program of individualised dietary and lifestyle interventions.

All but one, who was already suffering from a more advanced state of Alzheimer’s, saw profound improvements in memory and other areas where there had previously been deficits.

The table below, taken from the original paper, (some elements were changed or removed for the sake of simplicity) shows the history, diagnosis and the status at the end of the two and a half year study.

Patient (age/sex) History, evaluation Diagnosis Status
67F 2yr memory ?; FH+ aMCI Normal x 2.5 yrs; working
69M 12yr memory ⇓; FDG-PET+, NPsych+ Early AD “Clearly improved;” working
70M 4yr memory ⇓; NPsych+, failed MemTrax AD Improved; MemTrax passed
75M 1yr memory ⇓ SCI Improved; working
75F 1yr memory ⇓ aMCI/early AD Improved
55F 4yr memory ⇓ aMCI/early AD Normal; working
72M 7yr memory ⇓ aMCI Improved; working
55M 2yr memory ⇓ SCI Normal; working
63F FH dementia, mild memory ⇓ SCI Normal, negative amyloid PET; working
60F 4yr rapid decline; MoCA 6, amyloid PET+ Late AD Decline


AD, Alzheimer’s disease
aMCI, amnestic mild cognitive impairment
SCI, subjective cognitive impairment
FH, family history
FDG-PET+, fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography interpreted as typical of Alzheimer’s disease;
amyloid PET+, amyloid PET scan read as abnormal, indicative of amyloid accumulation;
NPsych+, quantitative neuropsychology tests showing abnormalities typical of AD;
MoCA, Montreal Cognitive Assessment;
MemTrax, an iPhone application that quantitates memory

Intervention Points

Below are listed all the different interventions employed in the course of the program. To my knowledge, no one adhered to all points, but the focus of the intervention was to tick enough boxes so that a synergistic effect was achieved to help rectify some of the many problems that eventually lead the to state of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s.

In no particular order the interventions were to:

  • Reduce the total carbs within the diet. Eliminate all simple carbohydrates like added sugars.
  • Reduce or eliminate grains and gluten consumption. Remove ‘processed’ food from the diet
  • Fast for a minimum of 12 hours with at least 3 hours between dinner and sleep.
  • Reduce stress, incorporate meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques.
  • Take 30 to 60 minutes of exercise 4-6 days a week
  • Eat or take probiotics
  • Increase vegetable and fruit intake
  • Eat grassfed beef and organic chicken occasionally or eliminate meat entirely
  • Limit consumption of fish to non farmed only
  • Take melatonin nightly (the study used a dosage 0.5mg)
  • Aim to get around 7-8 hours of sleep a night
  • Optimise oral hygiene
  • Take methyl tetrahydrofolate, a form of folate, not to be confused with folic acid, daily (the study used a dosage of 0.8mg)
  • Take vitamin B12 in the form of methylcobalamin daily, 1mg
  • Take pyrodixine-5-phosphate, a form of vitamin B6 daily (doses of between 20 and 50mg were used)
  • Take vitamin D3 daily, doses were between 2000-5000IU
  • Take 200mg of Co-enzyme Q10 daily
  • Take 50mg of zinc picolinate daily
  • Take either fish oil (2000mg daily) or DHA (320-700mg) and EPA (180-500mg)
  • Take citicoline daily (doses between 200-500mg were used)
  • Take vitamin C, 1g daily
  • Take 500mg ashwagandha and 250mg bacopa monniera daily
  • Eat coconut oil, 1 tablespoon a day
  • Take 400mg of vitamin E a day
  • Take 400mg of turmeric daily

Interventions that would require the help and advice of a doctor

  • Optimize free thyroxine (FT4) and free triiodothyrocine (FT3), estradiol, testosterone, progesterone, pregnenolone, cortisol

Whilst I have several thoughts about each intervention I have detailed them here as mentioned in the original paper.

I have also begun to expand upon the rationale behind each intervention and I will update the points as time allows.

Overall, whilst I have several thoughts about each point, the approach not only seemed to be effective but should also be completely safe for nearly everyone.

How to use this information

Alzheimer’s, cognitive decline and the many other forms of dementia are horrific conditions and any possibility of helping to ward off, reduce or even reverse these conditions should not be taken lightly.

With that in mind, the first point to be taken away from this is that the study was very small and anecdotal, meaning that a larger study may overturn these very promising findings. The findings here are also the first iteration of a regimen that will no doubt evolve following further study and experimentation.

Having said that there were no side effects as the study author stated in a press release  “It is noteworthy that the major side effect of this therapeutic system is improved health and an optimal body mass index, a stark contrast to the side effects of many drugs.”

If you are thinking about beginning this program you should probably first seek the guidance and advice of a capable and sympathetic doctor. Perhaps print out a copy of the original paper and discuss it with them.

Whilst all points don’t need to be met it would be prudent to try and hit as many as possible.

Also if you’re interested in the rationale behind each intervention I will be posting a series that covers the basic, each topic can easily get very complicated the first part of which can be found below.

Reversing Cognitive Decline Through Diet and Lifestyle Part 1

Got a question or maybe something to add? Leave a comment and let me know!