For those who have been following my blog posts/newsletters, you know that I just completed a ReCode (Reversal of Cognitive Decline) 10-month clinical trial. In this, my final blog post on this topic, I’ll summarize key points, answer most commonly asked questions and hopefully, there will be a nugget or two here that might help you. The main purpose of the trial was to try and halt quantifiable cognitive decline and improve cognition.
This newest book by Dr. Dale Bredesen, The End of Alzheimer’s Program-The First Protocol to Enhance Cognition and Reverse Decline is updated, has clearer guidelines on the diet, and is easier to understand than his first book. I would recommend it. I just got it on kindle. His protocol is the one followed in the ReCode clinical trial that I was a part of.
Clinical Study Results:
I’ve experienced improvements in cognition, weight loss, sleep, gum health, and overall energy.
My Cognition Improved which was my main reason for joining this trial
The Recode protocol which includes a combination of a Ketogenic diet, Intermittent Fasting, exercise, nutritional and hormonal supplementation, brain training, getting adequate sleep, and mindfulness training has helped me to crawl out of cognitive decline.
- Cognitive function tests (both the MoCA (Montreal Cognitive Assessment) and the CNS Vital Signs (Computerized Neurocognitive Assessment Software) have all markedly improved since baseline testing in December of 2019 to the point of testing “out of the range” of cognitive decline to normal levels. I was in the range of “mild cognitive decline” for my initial testing. These are excellent tests to do if you’re concerned for yourself or a loved one.
“What do I think has made the most difference?”
Honestly, I believe it’s a combination of many factors including:
- Improved quality and quantity of sleep (this was huge for me)
- The addition of targeted supplementation based on my lab tests
- Balancing my hormones
- Intermittent fasting to boost ones’ metabolism, for healing, and for weight loss. We had to make sure we didn’t eat for 3 hrs. before going to bed. Our goal in the study is 12-16 hours of fasting each day. That may sound draconian at first but it’s not that bad. If you have your last meal at 7 pm, you can eat 12 hrs. later at 7 am the following morning. It also helps with sleep as your overactive digestive system won’t wake you up.
- Getting the junk out of my diet!
- Consistent and varied exercise has been key including my Pilates, HIIT workouts 2x/week, dancing, and walking my pandemic puppy regularly. I learned through my research that aerobic exercise is critical for brain health but there’s more. Our ability to dual-task deteriorates with age. Dual-Task Training– combining cognitive activity with physical activity helps promote neuroplasticity! This is something I incorporate regularly into the virtual standing/mat Quarantine classes that I teach. An example of this is the new warm-up series I created which links various movements together into a brain-building, memory reinforcing challenge.
“We assume, that physical exercise increases the potential for neurogenesis while cognitive exercise guides it to induce positive plastic change”
~ Bamidis et al, 2014
- Online brain training because I’ve seen objective improvement particularly in my focus and processing speed. Online Brain Training was one of my daily requirements as a study participant. The program we were using, HQ.com is the most scientifically validated program on the market. This is way beyond crossword puzzles in sophistication and effectiveness. The exercises get harder as you become more successful so it’s continually challenging your brain. Check it out! You can do it on your phone, iPad, or laptop.
Insider’s tip-my nutritionist told me BrainHQ.com tends to run a subscription discount around Thanksgiving weekend.
So can I point to one thing that helped the most? No. That’s why the Recode Protocol is a multi-modal approach and why a single pill that has not in the past, and continues to not plug up all the problems that contribute to cognitive decline.
In addition to improved cognition, I lost considerable weight.
I lost 15 pounds on this protocol, with a noticeable improvement around my waistline. I’ve lost fat but not muscle as evidenced by the physical testing that I underwent at the beginning and end of the study and by Body Mass Index (BMI) testing on special equipment. For me, I believe the aspects that contributed to weight loss were intermittent fasting (no nighttime snacking), no sugar, and the high fat/low carb ketogenic diet which includes no bread. Exercise is also very important but I was doing that already. It was the food and fasting that were the new variables.
What else improved? I’m Sleeping Better
Since I’ve been in this study my sleep has markedly improved. I used to get up repeatedly to go to the bathroom and at times would have difficulty getting back to sleep. I now sleep through the night and when I do get up, I can fall right back asleep easily. A light-blocking eye mask ($10 for three on Amazon) at night helped tremendously with my sleep. I had to get beyond the fact that they look like training bras for the eyes but the comfort and effectiveness won out!
From my understanding, the following that I’m taking positively affects my sleep. Remember the recommendations may look very different for you and your body.
Over the counter supplements:
- NeuroMag by Designs for Health 3 capsules at bedtime (=144 mg magnesium)
- Melatonin SRT by Designs for Health 1 tablet bedtime (6mg)
- Progesterone 200mg cap (Costco has it the cheapest)
What else got better? Improved Gum Health
Dentalcidin toothpaste with Biocidin by Bio-Botanical Research
This is the natural toothpaste that was provided for me to use for the entire clinical study. My dental hygienist asked me what I was doing differently as my gum health improved significantly. I told her about the study and apparently, the change in diet and toothpaste resulted in this improvement. Warning, this stuff is not cheap-about $30 for a month supply.
How will I proceed now that the study is over?
Though it’s technically over, my doctor is continuing to refine certain aspects of my protocol including potencies of hormones, etc so I’m doing more blood testing in Nov. and Dec. so she can dial in the correct dosing.
I will continue with many of the supplements I’ve been taking, though thankfully we did discontinue or minimize some. I’m remaining on all 3 bioidentical hormones.
I know I said previously that I’d be adding A2 milk back into my diet, probably in the form of lattes. I’ve since changed my mind. Amazingly I now find I prefer the flavor of the oat milk in my coffee to regular milk so I’m sticking with that. BTW, oat milk has 240 mg of Calcium per 8 oz serving.
I’ve found that this Califia brand Oat Barista Blend is the best for foaming milk for lattes.
I will be adding in cheese here and there which is technically within a keto diet but was not part of the clinical study guidelines.
I’ll be continuing with Infra-Red sauna but on an intermittent basis. It was hard on my family for me to disappear so frequently in the evening to detox during the study. I have to juggle the needs of many.
I’m sticking with the Biocidin toothpaste for my gum health. I don’t mess with good results and people I’ve recommended it to have had similar positive gum effects.
Intermittent fasting will continue to factor into my wellness plan.
My go-to snacks are now Macadamia nuts, Trader Joe’s Mixed nut butter with Jicama sticks, or cauliflower florets. Avocados with olive oil are my healthy fat of choice along with fish. I regularly cook with avocado oil now as it doesn’t degrade at high heat.
I will continue to prioritize quantity and quality of sleep over late-night TV or getting more “work” done. The positive effects have been far-reaching including more energy, focus, and clearer thinking.
Re: the Keto diet, there are no studies about the effects of being on a keto diet long term. I don’t particularly want to stay on keto long term. I’m interested in carb cycling and one option that was presented by my study nutritionist is keto for morning and afternoon and higher carb allowance for dinner. That’s what I’m doing presently. I’ve added back in my Puerto Rican rice and beans-very happy about that I must say. Have also reintroduced higher carb foods like bananas and sweet potatoes.
On the last day of my clinical study, my son surprised me after dinner with a slice of my favorite chocolate fudge cake with cream cheese icing. Hadn’t touched that for 10 months. Decadent, delicious and you know what, I don’t crave it anymore which I’m grateful for. It used to be a weekly indulgence!
In full transparency-I still eat high cacao count chocolate (over 80%) not a lot, just enough to satisfy my chocolate craving. I particularly like the brand Blanxart at 82% cacao. I purchase it at my local Zanatto’s market. I also sneak in occasional spoonfuls of ice cream. I’m not a saint!
Protocol for the Study for those interested in the details
As a ReCode (Reversal of Cognitive Decline) clinical study participant these were my requirements:
- Adhere to a Ketogenic diet
- Be gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, alcohol-free
- Agree to undergo various genetic tests, as well as blood, poo, pee, MRI and everything in between.
- Prick myself daily to check my ketone levels to ensure adherence to the diet.
- Take bioidentical hormones (testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone)
- Daily online brain training through BrainHQ.com
- Daily mindfulness training-I’d wear a biofeedback gadget that tracked heart wave variability and coherence to teach you how to reduce stress and bring your brain, body, and emotions into balanced alignment.
- Take a heck of a lot of supplements
- Do intermittent fasting (fast for 12-16 hrs each day-starting from your last meal of the day till your first meal the following day)
- Exercise daily
- Monitor quality and quantity of healing sleep (I did this with a FitBit)
- Sauna or hot yoga regularly (3-5x wk) for detoxification
- Document everything I eat and my lifestyle activities in the clinical study binder
- Consult with the clinical study nutritionist and the exercise coach along with the medical doctor
Some people have asked-Why a ketogenic diet?
Here are some of the benefits of Ketosis as quoted by Dr. Jockers from DrJockers.com
- Reduced inflammation
- Enhanced mitochondrial health
- Reduced oxidative stress
- Increased mental clarity
- Abundant energy levels
- Reduced cravings
- Accelerated fat burning and Weight Loss
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Reduced risk of chronic disease
- Anti-aging effects
If you are interested in trying this protocol, I would start with Dr. Bredesen’s newest book mentioned above and I would do a google search for Bredesen-trained practitioners in your area. Given the complexity of the program and the multitude of tests that need to be done and interpreted, it is not something you want to embark on without guidance.
With that said there are many aspects of the protocol that you could start right away, like diet, intermittent fasting, focus on exercise, brain training, and sleep.
Wherever you are in your cognitive journey and whatever your concerns are for your cognitive health, I wish you all the best. Please comment, offer your suggestions, or post your questions below. I’d love to hear from you!