Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease whose incidence is clearly on the rise in America. Fortunately, a significant number of research dollars are currently being spent to try to understand what causes Alzheimer’s. ApoE-4, a particular allele of the apolipoprotein apoE, is a known risk factor. Since apoE plays a critical role in the transport of cholesterol and fats to the brain, it can be hypothesized that insufficient fat and cholesterol in the brain play a critical role in the disease process. In a remarkable recent study, it was found that Alzheimer’s patients have only 1/6 of the concentration of free fatty acids in the cerebrospinal fluid compared to individuals without Alzheimer’s. In parallel, it is becoming very clear that cholesterol is pervasive in the brain, and that it plays a critical role both in nerve transport in the synapse and in maintaining the health of the myelin sheath coating nerve fibers. An extremely high-fat (ketogenic) diet has been found to improve cognitive ability in Alzheimer’s patients. These and other observations described below lead me to conclude that both a low-fat diet and statin drug treatment increase susceptibility to Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that takes away the mind bit by bit over a period of decades. It begins as odd memory gaps but then steadily erodes your life to the point where around-the-clock care is the only option. With severe Alzheimer’s, you can easily wander off and get lost, and may not even recognize your own daughter. Alzheimer’s was a little known disease before 1960, but today it threatens to completely derail the health system in the United States.
Currently, over 5 million people in America have Alzheimer’s. On average, a person over 65 with Alzheimer’s costs three times as much for health care as one without Alzheimer’s. More alarmingly, the incidence of Alzheimer’s is on the rise. Dr. Murray Waldman has studied epidemiological data comparing Alzheimer’s with femur fractures, looking back over the last fifty years . Alarmingly, he has found that, while the incidence of femur fractures (another condition which typically increases with age) has gone up only at a linear rate, the increase in the incidence of Alzheimer’s has gone up exponentially, between 1960 and 2010 Alzheimer’s Epidemic . Just between 2000 and 2006, US Alzheimer’s deaths rose by 47%, while, by comparison, deaths from heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and stroke combined decreased by 11%. This increase goes far beyond people living longer: for people 85 and older, the percentage who died from Alzheimer’s rose by 30% between 2000 and 2005 . Finally, it’s likely these are under-estimates, as many people suffering with Alzheimer’s ultimately die of something else. You likely have a close friend or relative who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.