Next Avenue


In an article that looks at the progress made in the last ten years in treatments for Alzheimer’s, it is noted that progress has not been recorded. According to thoughts of many, the lack of funding forced researchers to concentrate all their efforts on what was thought to be the best theory of Alzheimer’s which was that a build-up of beta-amyloid plaques and tangles are the main brain changes in the disease. Efforts to find drugs to combat these plaques has not proven and in fact, companies are pulling back drug development.


There is some concentration on lifestyle changes as a means of prevention and a whole host of theories are being looked at for possible testing as funding is increasing. All this while the rate of dementia deaths has more than doubled in the past decade.


The Conversation

Alzheimer’s disease: have we got the cause all wrong?

The dominant theory of the cause of Alzheimer’s has rested on beta-amyloid plaque. The clumping together somehow damages the nerve cells in the brain which leads to memory loss and other symptoms. The approach should be straightforward – stop the clumping and you will halt the disease. Unfortunately, this approach has not worked. While drugs have cleared the plaques, the disease has not been eliminated.

In an interesting twist, even while few neuroscientists still subscribe to the view that it’s the beta-amyloid Alzheimer’s disease, at a recent UK conference there was near universal agreement that it is time to separate the concept of Alzheimer’s disease from dementia.  The idea that plaques may exist but that it may not necessarily lead to dementia merely serves to confuse rather than enlighten.

Journal of the American Medical Association

Results of a recent study suggest that a healthy diet dose not reduce the risk of demntia. There was no marked decrease in the onset of dementia between the 30% of participants who struck to a healthy diet of  fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes along with unsaturated fats and the 30% with a poor diet who regularly consumed red-meat and ate sugar-rich foods. This is an observational study and does not prove cause and effect.

Open Minds:

So what is working?

There is focus on prevention  - aerobic and mental exercise as effective treatments. Opportunities for community based services are essential. Care coordination programs to manage comorbidities are critical. Until there are new pharmaceutical interventions available, it will be up to long term care organizations to serve consumers with dementia.