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Natural Alzheimer’s Treatment

September is World Alzheimer’s Month, in recognition of those stricken with the devastating disease, now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. We’ve known for almost 20 years that compared to long-time vegetarians, those eating meat (including poultry and fish) appear to have three times the risk of developing dementia. Since studies show “even moderately elevated cholesterol increased dementia risk,” the cognitive impairment more often seen in those eating meat may be due to atherosclerotic plaque building in the brain’s blood vessels, which can cause micro-infarctions or “ministrokes” that can kill off little parts of the brain the way clogged coronary arteries can kill off parts of the heart during a heart attack.

New evidence presented in today’s video-of-the-day suggests that this may be only part of the puzzle. Maybe it’s not just what vegetarians don’t eat, but what they do; the phytonutrients found in plant-based diets have been shown to have a wide range of beneficial effects. In a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial (the so-called “gold standard” of modern medicine), the spice saffron was found to significantly beat out out the control “sugar pill” in helping to prevent further cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients.

Saffron has been used as a folk remedy for more than 90 diseases since the Bronze Age over 3,000 years ago. We currently have preliminary science supporting its role for erectile dysfunction, depression, premenstrual syndrome, and now, Alzheimer’s disease.

The study used a daily dose of 30mg of saffron a day. According to the World Health Organization, up to 1.5 grams a day may be safe, but 5 grams can be toxic, and 20 grams fatal. Saffron is contraindicated (meaning should not be used) for those with bleeding disorders and for pregnant women (since it may induce uterine contractions). In tomorrow’s video-of-the-day saffron is put to a head-to-head challenge against a leading Alzheimer’s drug.

My previous videos on cognition include Does Tofu Cause Dementia?, Improving Memory Through Diet, A Dietary Theory of Alzheimer’s, and Reversing Cognitive Decline.

-Michael Greger, M.D.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

15 responses to “Natural Alzheimer’s Treatment

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    1. My stepdad’s mom has Alzheimer’s disease, and we’ve been researching what do add to her diet to help reverse this horrible disease. Would a ketogenic diet help, I read that people with this disease don’t process glucose correctly to use for energy.

      1. Thank you for your question and sorry to hear about your stepdad’s mum. The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is multifactorial but what we know is that the risk factors for this disease are the same as that for heart disease and stroke i.e. A high fat, Western style diet that leads to atherosclerosis in all the vessels of the body including the brain. The diets that are best for the brain are centred around whole plant foods, low in fat, high in fibre and complex carbohydrates. A ketogenic diet is a high fat diet and would ultimately lead to worsening of blood vessel health in all organs of the body. If there is a problem with glucose processing, like in diabetes, the cause is not too much sugar/carbohydrate in the diet, but due to abnormal fat deposition in the organs of the body. This abnormal fat accumulation can be reversed through a whole foods plant based diet (although there is no definite way to reverse Alzheimers disease itself).
        These videos cover the the issue of fat in the diet
        Also, Michael Greger’s book How not to die has a section on Alzheimers that you might find useful

        1. I have the book! And thanks so much for the prompt response it was very helpful. We are increasing my stepgrandma’s intake of fruits and vegetables, she’s not eating much but I hope that the little bit that she is having helps along with the treatment her doctor is administering.

  1. Interesting! I was wondering also if it was the copper content in the Spriulina that made it bad? In Brenda’s Becoming Raw book, it looks like it has very high copper. Oh, and what if your cholesterol is low, below 150 and all your regular cholesterol tests are great. But in the VAP test, the VLDLc is high? (And you are already vegan and already eating whole grains and now sugar, etc…) It seems that there is a genetic component, but is there a way to lower that number?? And does this number also have something to do with Alzheimer’s??
    The VLDLc is an independent risk for heart disease, correct? Just wondering because my grandfather died at 42 from heart disease and I am making my folks get the VAP done as well. And, can you change your LDL particle size? If you have smaller particles, can you change the size of the ldl particles with diet?

    1. My concerns about spirulina (and chlorella) center around toxin production, not copper.

      VLDL is not considered an accepted risk factor. Getting your LDL cholesterol under 70 is probably the most important target to shoot for (versus size or the other fractions). And any possible link between the VLDL receptor and Alzheimer’s remains an open question.

      Thank you for all your questions Lachicavegana!

  2. re: “…let me know if you’d like me to do more videos…”

    If you are talking about more videos like this one on saffron and alzheimers, YES, YES, YES! I like to know which foods seem to fight diseases particularly well – especially when the proof is done by a double-blind study. To me, that is mainstream science. Which leads me to the next thought:

    What I am confused about is the part where you write: “…on the latest science on alternative/complementary medicine.”. How does this video counts as alternative medicine? Isn’t this whole site about how diet can improve our health: both fight and reverse disease? As well as keep us healthy? If so, then either this entire site is alternative medicine or there is nothing special about this video to put it into an ‘alternate’ category. That’s the way it appears to me. I’d be interested to know how I am wrong. Thanks.

    I also wanted to thank you for this blog post where you put upper limits on what is safe for saffron. Without reading that, I would have thought that the more the better – sort of like you mentioning stuffing a pumpkin pie with as much cloves and cinnamon as you could stand. It’s helpful to know that a little bit of saffron can be great and too much is bad. That’s the kind of thing that you could put into your videos if you allowed them to be longer than 2 minutes. :-) Thanks.

    1. I understand what you mean, JJ. Seems these days anything other than drugs and surgery is considered “alternative.” But those drugs kill 100,000 Americans a year (making doctors one of the leading causes of death). Modern medicine can be miraculous, but I only wish that my fellow physicians would try to stay on top of the exciting science out there that isn’t ever going to be presented to them in a drug lunch.

  3. This is very interesting. We should talk. I have completed the book The Dynamite Story of Alzheimer’s Recoveries and your information coincides with what I have found! Thank you for coming forth with this information!

  4. My mother has been on Aracept for 6 years – really need to know how to make the switch. Her neurologist does not support natural remedies as he fears drug interactions but – he was quite surprised when the Turmeric and Blueberry capsules I had been giving her showed her improved.

    Can you either tell me or send me to someone that would be able to help with weening her off of the Aracept and replacing it with Saffron.

    Thank you!

  5. Amazing article Dr. Greger!. I would like to know what do you think about brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) as an herbal supplement/tea. I had read few articles about this plant and benefits for the brain, specially for anxiety and memory; but I am not sure about the safety for other organs, such as the liver, heart and kidneys. Thank you for this amazing site!

  6. Have followup studies been done on the saffron study done in the dictatorial number 1 saffron producing country in the world?
    I would like to see the results confirmed by second studies outside of Iran.

    This might be interesting too :
    The Aqueous Extract of Rhizome of Gastrodia elata Protected Drosophila and PC12 Cells against Beta-Amyloid-Induced Neurotoxicity. In conclusion, our current data presented the first evidence that the aqueous extract of GE was capable of reducing the A β -induced neurodegeneration in Drosophila, possibly through inhibition of apoptosis and reduction of oxidative stress. GE aqueous extract could be developed as a promising herbal agent for neuroprotection and novel adjuvant therapies for Alzheimer’s disease.

  7. Can I use this by mixing it when taking coffee or tea? We don’t cook much using saffron. Are there no interactions that could negate the brain benefits in coffee or tea?

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