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AARP's Startling Story "Boost Your Brain Health" - A Hoax

The AARP Magazine's March-April 2010 edition has a most startling article entitled: "Boost Your Brain Health". This article by Dr. Murali Doraiswamy makes some very bizarre statements that appear to have no established factual basis. A subtitle states "With a Few Easy Changes, You can Stay at Your Sharpest."  (Working, stimulating and challenging your mind.) What a farce and what an insult to every victim and every Alzheimer's victim's family.

The opening paragraph tells the story of Dr. Gary Small and a patient who he describes as an accomplished mathematician in his early 70s. Small was said to have tested this man and found that he had a perfect score of 30 out of 30 on a memory test and had a "whopping 140 on his IQ test." ..."he was "still doing high level mathematics"..

A brain scan of this man was said to have had "all the markings of full-blown Alzheimer's disease"....he goes on to say that "Though this case is extreme, it is not unique"...the story then goes on to state "in fact, up to 20 percent of people autopsied who had no major memory problems are discovered to have had Alzheimer's", says Yaakov Stern, PhD., Columbia University..

Wow...Can this really be true?

     Note: Yaakov Stern is a or the prime promoter of a theory called "Cognitive Reserve." A theory that says one can bypass age or disease related trouble spots in the brain by simply working your mind, stimulating the mind and challenging the mind. This process thereby develops the claimed "cognitive reserve". Many variation's of this theory are prevalent today in the group who feel one can avoid Alzheimer's simply by stimulating the brain. They can be said to be the "use it or lose it" theorists... The many Alzheimer's victims who were people with lives that required active and stimulating mental activity puts a lie to this theory. Even Mayo Clinic is one of the promoters of this thinking. In their publication “Age of Wellness,” Summer 2007, much space is devoted to this subject. Dr. David Knopman in an article on Lifestyle Habits in preventing Alzheimer’s Disease”, after discussing “Eat Healthy, Exercise Regularly, and Stay Mentally Active!” ends the article with the following admission....The reality is that the information we have doesn’t really answer the question whether any of these behaviors alone serve to protect the brain from AD.”  

While this avenue of thinking has a wide following today, as Mayo admits, there is scant little supporting facts or data to validate it. If it were a court case, it would be quickly challenged and labeled "Junk Science".

Where did this information come from...that is said to make up 20 percent of people autopsied who had no Alzheimer's symptoms but were found to have Alzheimer's. I feel I am up-to-date on the latest in Alzheimer's research and I had never heard this claim before. I have never heard the claim that a person without memory problems or without dementia symptoms (Cognitive, Personality and Functional symptoms) has ever been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

I suspect that it's origin for this speculation came from the U.K. study of aging brains as reported in AMDA "Caring for the Ages" September 2009 "Oldest Brains Can Belie Dementia Status." This article states: "In some patients who die very old, the brain might show the classic pathologic features of Alzheimer's disease even though the patient did not exhibit dementia. According to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine,. Assessment of 426 brains donated to the United Kingdom's Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (CFAS) showed that characteristic Alzheimer's pathology did not always correspond with dementia among the "oldest old."... "In an editorial comment accompanying this report, Douglas C. Ewbank, PhD, and Steven E. Arnold, MD of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia said "it is essential to understand why some elderly people fail to develop dementia when their brains show the same number of plaques and tangles seen in Alzheimer's disease."

These studies did not conclude that any of these people had Alzheimer's. What they concluded was simply that the previously accepted benchmarks that indicated Alzheimer's, such as the findings of Protein Beta-Amyloid plaques and the Tangles called Tau were and are no longer solely reliable indicators for the diagnosis of the disease of  Alzheimer's. It also strongly suggests that the research for a cure needs to take a new direction!

     Note: The following research clearly shows that the presence of plaques and tangles of Beta Amyloids do not in themselves indicate that an individual has Alzheimer's: Dr. Ganesh M. Shankar and Dr. Dennis J. Selkoe of Harvard Medical School. “Researchers have caused Alzheimer’s symptoms in rats by injecting them with one particular form of Beta-Amyloid. ...other forms of Beta-Amyloid did not cause illness, which may explain why some people have Beta-Amyloid plaque in their brains but do not show disease symptoms.

"(1.) Two-molecule form of soluble Beta-Amyloid produced characteristics of Alzheimer's in the rats." 

(2.) There was no detectable effect from the (a.) insoluble plaque or the (b.) soluble one-molecule or (c.) soluble three molecule forms. The question is why one has the damaging effect and not others. (Note that four varieties of plaque are involved here.) "We have learned a great deal about the possible pathogenic role that amyloid in its various forms might play in Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis, but the final demonstration that reversing amyloid pathology ameliorates the disease itself is still lacking." It also clearly does not indicate that the presence of amyloid alone or in of itself establishes Alzheimer's disease.

It appears to me that the thrust of the AARP article results in the taking of a giant leap into speculation and wishful thinking that is unsupported by facts or science..

Science needs to focus their efforts and attention on the finding a cure and not with wishful thinking....or deluding themselves and others into thinking we can make simple changes in our life styles to prevent this terrible disease. Our energies and financial resources need to be concentrated on finding a cure and not wasted “tilting with windmills” in the pursuit of a means of prevention by simplistic methods.


June Berg 1990

     Note: If we are to look at the ranks of the victims, we will find that many are/were persons of razor sharp mentality and intellect. Person’s who used their brains vigorously during their lifetimes prior to developing Alzheimer’s. These many examples effectively put a lie to the notion that one can avoid Alzheimer’s by simply vigorously utilizing one’s brain on a daily basis.  Many of the victims were individuals who depended on their mind, their brain and intellect to conduct their profession. Many were in the arts. Many were prominent statesman and political figures.

Here is a listing of a few of the many well known personalities who have been struck down by this dreaded disease. - Abe Burrows (Actor), Perry Como (Singer), Aaron Copland (Composer), Thomas Dorsey (Song Writer), Arlen Francis (Actor), Ralph Waldo Emerson (Poet), Barry Goldwater (Senator), Rita Hayworth (Actor), Raul Silva Henriquez (Roman Catholic Cardinal), Charlton Heston (Actor and Political Activist), William B. Konar, (Started the CVS drug chain after living thru the Holocaust.) Burgess Meredith (Actor), Edmond O’Brien (Actor), Otto Preminger (Director), Ronald Reagan (40th US President), Norman Rockwell (Artist), Margaret Thatcher (British Prime Minister), Harold Wilson (another British Prime Minister). My wife June K. Berg, (Photo on right) who was one of the brightest, most active and alert people I have ever known. I have often wondered how she kept all the balls in the air at once!

This “use it or lose it” mentality and thinking results in a myth, and a cruel hoax and by its very implications it is an insult to the many victims of this terrible disease. The suggestion that the victims sat around and vegetated until they got Alzheimer's is despicable.


See an earlier and a related blog - click this link:  

 "A Vigorous, Active Mind Will Avoid Alzheimer's - A Myth and a Cruel Hoax"


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