I’ve been asked to comment on this article: Astaxanthin: A Rising Star in Alzheimer’s Prevention. I am happy to do so.
Whenever I see an article like this one, that touts a new “cure”(or in this case, a new preventative) for Alzheimer’s disease, my first reaction is always distrust. There are entirely too many people out there trying to make a buck by preying on the hopes of those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or on the fears of those desperate to avoid the disorder.
I cannot judge Dr. Mercola’s motivation, but I do note that his site sells the products he espouses.
My second reaction is to check the information out.
This particular article makes so many claims, it will take some time to go through them all, but I think it may be worthwhile to do so.
The first two paragraphs of the article are absolutely 100% accurate.
There is no reference cited for the projection in paragraph three that Alzheimer’s will increase in prevalence from the current one in eight persons age 65 and over, to a state where one in four Americans will be affected. It is unclear whether we are now talking about one in four Americans age 65 and over, or just one in four Americans.
But put aside for the moment the fact that we don’t know exactly to whom the “one in four” refers. Whatever group is meant, this is a major increase.
But you have to wonder… How much of the increase is due simply to the increase in elderly people in the population? We are, thanks to our current excellent health care system, living longer, healthier lives than ever before. It was not that long ago that few adults lived long enough for the neurodegenerative diseases associated with aging to show themselves. One reason the incidence of Alzheimer’s is going up is that we are doing a better job of not dying from other causes. Scary as this projection is, it is unsubstantiated (no reference) and may be misrepresented… or not (we can’t tell since the wording is imprecise). So one probably should not give it much weight.
The fourth paragraph is accurate, but fails to mention that there is no way to objectively determine whether any particular regimen prevents Alzheimer’s, since we don’t really know what causes it and we cannot predict who is going to get it.
There are a few families in which Alzheimer’s is hereditary and caused by specific gene defects. (Don’t worry. If you were in one of these families, you’d know it—researchers would be knocking at your door.) People from these families are not included in clinical trials, since they would skew the data. Familial Alzheimer’s, as it is called, accounts for approximately 10% of all cases. The other 90% of Alzheimer’s cases are sporadic, meaning the disease occurs for no apparent reason.
The next two paragraphs continue to imply that there is a known regimen that will decrease your risk of getting Alzheimer’s. But there isn’t. We do, however, know a few things about brain health and some of the suggestions later in the article are based on that information.
So thus far, the article is reasonably accurate, but does make some implications that could be misleading. Next time we’ll begin analyzing the specific recommendations one by one.