There has been a remarkable breakthrough in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease that affects millions of people all over the world. Namely, a research group from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) released the results of their conducted study involving a new approach in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Even though this study was a small one, each involved participant suffering from Alzheimer’s by the end of the study showed significant improvement by having a normal range on testing for memory and cognition.
This is an important breakthrough as current treatment methods provide minimal improvement for the patients. Naturally, there are many new drugs, but the benefits from their use were almost insignificant. For instance a large clinical trial used a new drug known as LMTX, but there were only little benefits in patients. Other drug was introduced designed to target the amyloid protein, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, but also showed almost none positive results in its first large clinical trial. The renowned Merck announced that they have developed a drug named as verubecestat designed to inhibit the formation of amyloid protein. However, just like previous drugs the results of its trial were no better than the placebo.
Billions of dollars have been spent in an effort to understand the molecular basis of Alzheimer’s so that an effective treatment could be applied to the affected patients. But, there is still no cure for this devastating disease only a relief for the ongoing symptoms. We have managed in the lasts decades to gather more data about this disease, but it has not yielded many successful treatments.
On the other hand, the study of UCLA was not based on the use of drugs, but researchers introduced another approach in the treatment of this disease. It is based on following a protocol consisting of a variety of different lifestyle modifications that will optimize metabolic parameters like inflammation and insulin resistance related to Alzheimer’s disease. The patients in this study were advised to change their diet by incorporating a wide range of vegetables, follow a regular physical activity, develop techniques for stress management, and better their sleeping patterns. The only adverse effect was weight loss, amazing, isn’t it?
The positive results of this study reveal a new alternative method in the treatment of this complex and chronic disease.
This is not the only chronic disease that people fight on daily basis; there are also the diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. However, in the case of these diseases we have developed effective medications, but none of them work without adverse effects. We have mastered the understanding of the cellular processes at the root of these diseases, but the cure has not reached its perfection.
Having in mind all these drawbacks when finding the cure for a chronic disease, the researchers at UCLA decided to use a different approach. Knowing the fact that Alzheimer’s disease is a specific manifestation of a highly complex system in disarray, they sought to optimize the system by changing the inputs. In other words, the researchers decided to put aside the molecular box, and to focus solely on the context of the box. We cannot state precisely how the intervention worked on a cellular level, but it showed positive effects which is very important especially for the people who are struggling with Alzheimer’s on daily basis.
Yet, this is not a new method as researchers have already revealed that the implementation of comprehensive lifestyle changes can substantially better chronic conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension.
Nonetheless, this new approach may face difficulties and for the two obvious reasons. The first one is the needed counseling and education of patients and support to effect meaningful change. The second one is the way how our medical system is based on and that is on the use of pharmaceutical treatments which are covered by the insurance companies. Namely, these companies are set up to pay for medication, and not for lifestyle change; and on the other hand the physicians are taught pharmacology, not nutrition.
However, although these difficulties exist, we need to start to focus on these new approaches as the rise of the chronic diseases in the last decades has doubled and even tripled in certain diseases. The increase of patients with Alzheimer’s is expected to triple over the next three decades, to almost 4 million in the states. This will also apply for the chronic health conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The conventionally used drug treatments will bring new side effects and some cases can even worsen the previous condition of the affected person.
Hence, we need to try to make a change of our lifestyle as it has been proven that comprehensive lifestyle modification can work for many chronic diseases and in some cases even better than the used drugs.