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New brain program may fight Alzheimer's

by Robert Powell / / Source: TODAY

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A new protocol to fight Alzheimer's disease is getting striking results for some patients.

California neurologist Dr. Dale Bredesen, who believes Alzheimer's is caused by dozens of imbalances in the body, created a program designed to fix them.

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“We spent 27 years in a laboratory looking at what are the features that drive the underlying problem,” Bredesen told NBC’S Maria Shriver as part of TODAY’s special series, "Brain Power Today.”

“We see improvement time after time after time.”

 November is Alzheimer's Awareness Month. Shutterstock

Bredesen says his program only works for patients in the early stages of the disease. His daily protocol includes:

  • eating a Mediterranean diet high in vegetables and good fats
  • regular cardio exercise
  • fasting at least 12 hours after dinner
  • brain training exercises
  • getting at least 8 hours of sleep
  • a regimen of supplements to address each patient's deficiencies.

In a small, 2014 study published in the journal "Aging," Bredesen found his program boosted cognitive functioning in nine out of 10 Alzheimer's patients within six months. Some could even return to work.

RELATED: New Alzheimer's disease drug may help people at risk

One study patient diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, who asked his identity not be revealed because he's a working physician, began the Bredesen program when his memory started to slip. A year in, he says his symptoms disappeared and his cognitive test scores are back to normal.

Bredesen doesn’t consider the program a cure for Alzheimer's.

“The longest we have a person on the program is four and a half years. We've not had a single example yet out of hundreds in which someone has gone on the program, gotten better, stayed on the program, and then gotten worse,” he said.

RELATED: Burning more calories lowers your risk of developing dementia

Critics say: until more research is done, the verdict is still out. The Alzheimer's Association says it's encouraged by his initial results, but further study is needed.

He's now partnered with the Cleveland Clinic for a larger clinical trial of his program.

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