28 November 2016


Reversing Alzheimer’s with Probiotics?

For the past several years I have been writing and lecturing about the relationship between Alzheimer’s disease and changes in the gut bacteria. We know, for example, that Alzheimer’s is an inflammatory condition. As well, we know that changes in gut bacteria enhance inflammation. So it seemed quite reasonable to assume that damage to, and loss of diversity in, gut bacteria could hasten brain degeneration so characteristic of Alzheimer’s. We know, for example, that loss of diversity in the gut organisms as measured in populations in various countries correlates to increased prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in those countries, as was so eloquently described in my Empowering Neurologist interview with Dr. Molly Fox.

But now it’s time to look at this issue in another way. Let’s ask this question: if damage to the gut bacteria relates to worsening of the brain in Alzheimer’s disease, could restoration of good bacteria using probiotics help the situation? This is quite a question when you think about the implications of what this might mean for the more than 40 million individuals around the world suffering from a disease for which there is no treatment.

Well, we may well have an answer to this compelling question, and it’s really great news. Researchers publishing in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience took a group of elderly Alzheimer’s patients and studied them for 12 weeks. Each participant underwent a test for mental function called the mini-mental status exam (MMSE), a standardized cognitive assessment used worldwide. They also underwent a blood test called highly sensitive c-reactive protein (hs-CRP), a powerful marker of inflammation. These tests were then repeated after 12 weeks.

The study evaluated 60 patients, half of whom were given a placebo, while the other half consumed a probiotic milk containing the probiotic species, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Lactobacillus fermentum.

The results of the study were stunning. The placebo group showed an increase in hs-CRP, the inflammation marker, by an impressive 45%. In the group taking the probiotic, on the other hand, hs-CRP didn’t just stay the same, but actually declined by 18% indicating a dramatic reduction in inflammation.

But here’s the truly exciting news. Over the 12 weeks, the patients in the placebo continued to decline mentally, as you might expect. Their MMSE score dropped from 8.47 to 8.00, a substantial reduction. But the group on the inflammation reducing probiotics actually demonstrated, not a decline in brain function, but an actual improvement, with their MMSE scores going from 8.67 up to 10.57, and that’s a huge improvement. Again, not only was their mental decline stopped in it’s tracks, these individuals regained brain function!

The message here is that inflammation is directly determined by the health and diversity of our gut bacteria, and this has major implications in terms of brain health, function, and disease resistance. Recognizing that inflammation is the mechanism underlying not just Alzheimer’s disease, but Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and even cancer means that the findings in this report may have wide implications.

One thing’s for sure. We’ve got to do everything we can to support the health and diversity of our gut bacteria, and we’ve got to absolutely stay on top of this emerging research that may finally open the door to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.


Effect of Probiotic Supplementation on Cognitive Function and Metabolic Status in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Randomized, Double-Blind and Controlled Trial - See more: Double Blind Controlled Trial


Dr Perlmutter


GoldieZP said...

very interesting post Neshama - I give probiotics to our son because he is on antibiotics (upcoming tonsillectomy) (He had 5 bouts of strep in one year and his ASO tieter is over 3,000 when it should be under 150) anyway SUGAR SUGAR SUGAR is the main ingredient the put in the probitics for children. uggg

mg said...

Prebiotics like lots of fiber (fruits and vegetables) are necessary to ensure a healthy gut. This way of eating is preferable over probiotics which has a lot of sugar, I.e., yogurt, milk.


Neshama said...

mg you are wrong, or are buying the wrong probiotic formulae. Probiotics have the sugar! Natural fruits have sugar in them, and while they are ‘natural’ are not good for those on a low (or no) sugar diet. There are certain fruits that are low in sugar and better digested, like APPLES, which are extremely healthy. Probiotics DO NOT HAVE SUGAR IN THEM. One can google to find charts that provide the sugar component of foods.

Probiotics recommended are in capsule or powder form and taken daily, preferably on an empty stomach.

Yogurt and milk are dairy and not well digested by many. Yogurt must state on the label that it contains ACTIVE cultures and contains NO FRUIT OR FLAVORING as this diminishes the effect of the culture. Cow milk is not needed by adults; Goat milk is more easily digested for some.

P R E B I O T I C S do have a sugar component. But for a healthy gut a pure PRObiotic as Dr Perlmutter outlined is the preferred treatment for a healthy gut.

A high vegetable low carb component to one’s diet is of course very healthy. Most people do not eat a proper amount of veggies, or if they do they are overcooked and only the water left behind is worth eating. Low carb helps to regulate one’s insulin spikes.

Wheat and white flour, noodles and other pasta, white potatoes are also high carb foods. Sourdough baked goods are a vast improvement for digestion, and should be the venue for Challah and all baked breads. This reduces the gluten effect and eases the digestion in the colon.