So many thoughts and emotions running through my head as I read Karen Wilder’s emotional statement released to ABC News about the ordeal of caring for her husband, actor Gene Wilder who succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease at age 83 in August of 2016.
Karen Wilder cites a striking statistic. A Stanford Medicine study that showed 40 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers die before their patient, “not from disease, but from the sheer physical, spiritual and emotional toll of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.”
Gene Wilder played the lead role in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” a 1971 American musical fantasy as he led a young boy on a tour through a fantasmic candy factory.
Chocolate factories and Alzheimer’s
Ironically, it is sugary candies and foods that set the stage for Alzheimer’s. High fructose corn syrup, a form of sugar that was first introduced into the American diet in beverages and then later in other fructose-laced foods in the 1970s, about the same time Wilder’s film aired. Increased fructose consumption has been identified as a risk factor for dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, the loss of one’s memory and thinking ability.
And it’s no surprise that sugary foods block an essential B vitamin whose replacement may serve as an imminent cure for this devastating brain disease.
But modern medicine demands a drug, not a vitamin. And what to do about all the drugs that induce dementia? Millions of cases of mental decline are traced to drug side effects that mimic Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Don’t think you will never get Alzheimer’s disease
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The Alzheimer’s death parade has already started. I’ve already written that a drug for Alzheimer’s disease is too far off in the future to avert this growing public disaster. Americans are living too long and facing the undeserved reward of senility. The likelihood of living long enough to get Alzheimer’s is relatively high. Despite ourselves, we are living long but not necessarily healthy. Healthspan must accompany lifespan.
Alzheimer’s: a diagnosis too difficult to face
I think of the news reports of older married couples, faced with newly diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease in one mate, who decide life is not worth living without each other and go out to the garage, hook up a hose to the tail pipe of their car and place the other end through a rolled-up window, get in the car and start the engine. I hate even giving anybody this idea.
Modern medicine has no cure for Alzheimer’s disease beyond a couple of worthless drugs that work no better than inactive placebo pills and only provide false relief that at least something is being done to slow down this progressive brain disease.
What about an anti-aging pill?
In contrast to the explosion of other age-related medical problems in addition to Alzheimer’s disease is the prospect of an anti-aging pill, said to be far off in the future.
The growing need for an anti-aging pill to head off or even reverse the many ravages of aging — cloudy cataracts, withering muscles, loss of stature, weakened heart, impaired immunity and Alzheimer’s dementia is the striking realization that the majority of Americans want nothing to do with a pill that may allay all these maladies of aging. They can only imagine living to the point of being diapered, over-drugged, drooling at the mouth and confined to a wheelchair. In their mind, that is all that modern medicine has to offer. A visit to any nursing home serves as evidence for this.
A 2013 Pew Research study found 56% of respondents said they would take a pass on an anti-aging pill that would let them live to 120 – although two-thirds said most other people would want to try it.
Though most of those surveyed expect other medical advances that could more gradually extend life expectancy, such as better cancer care. It appears even that goal has been achieved scientifically but not put into clinical practice.
When asked about living to 120 or beyond, the survey found 51 percent of people said that would be bad for society. They worried about a strain on natural resources, and that such treatments probably would be available only to the rich rather than to everyone anyway.
The problem with a so-called anti-aging pill is that it is a cure-all. It would dismantle the income stream that fuels jobs and wealth in the medical industry. It would be 50-drugs in one.
The current paradigm of detecting and treating each and every age-related disease as they occur with drugs narrowly designed for the eyes, heart, brain, etc. would be abolished should a bona fide anti-aging pill be put into common use. The threat of an anti-aging pill to Big Pharma and modern medicine is what sunlight represents to Dracula. Game over.
Resveratrol: shunned, dismissed, buried
Chief among many compounds tested for their anti-aging properties is resveratrol, known as a red wine molecule.
As researchers report: Of the many compounds studied for their anti-aging effects, “resveratrol has been the most widely studied molecule in the context of aging-research, not only due its apparent lack of toxicity but also due to its remarkable ability to treat and counteract a number of age-related diseases in mammals, including heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes.”
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That is why, when researchers discovered a red wine resveratrol pill closely mimicked a lifespan/healthspan doubling calorie-restricted diet, it was thrown under the rug. That is why researchers under-dosed or over-dosed animals with resveratrol to produce contrary science.
A longevity study was not conducted on a unique resveratrol formulation that activated nine-fold more longevity genes than plain resveratrol and didn’t require life-long calorie restricted diet to accomplish this.
Hopes of an anti-aging pill were raised when resveratrol increased survival of laboratory animals by 26% given a high-fat (60% fat calorie) diet, roughly equivalent to another 20 years of healthy life if translated to humans. For reference, Americans consume ~30-35% fat calories from their diet.
However, while laboratory mice on a high-fat diet given resveratrol lived considerably longer and were largely free of age-related disease, mice on a standard calorie diet did not live longer when given resveratrol.
In the animal lab, while high-dose (human equivalent ~550-2100 milligrams) resveratrol given to mice in middle age had a remarkable effect in delaying functional decline, cataracts and chronic inflammation characteristic of aging humans, it did not extend the life of these animals fed a standard (20-30% fat calorie) diet. At this point, researchers summarily dismissed the prospect of resveratrol serving as an anti-pill.
However, this is precisely what surveys show many people want — life free of the debilitating effects of aging without having to live too long!
Resveratrol prolonged the health and function of aging laboratory animals without extending lifespan, which if translated to humans, would give humanity what it says it wants — independent living without living too long!
So what happened to resveratrol?
Despite resveratrol reaching a dead end as an anti-aging drug, Harvard researcher David Sinclair says he still takes resveratrol and said it “remains an excellent proof-of-concept molecule” and added “I’m as optimistic about the science and the potential of sirtuin activators as I’ve ever been.”
Doctors must control anti-aging pill should they ever materialize. The public must not have direct access to such a pill without a prescription. To that end, Rx medicines approved for other conditions are being repurposed as anti-aging drugs. To head off the growing demand for such a pill, one prescription medicine, the anti-diabetic drug metformin, is posed as an anti-aging drug but is only expected to prolong life by about 8%.
Role of religion in health and longevity
If you think an anti-aging pill would upset modern medicine, just imagine what it is imagined to do to religion.
Americans are wary of an anti-aging pill. And oddly enough, it is God-fearing Americans who fail to even embrace the idea of brain performance pills to ward off Alzheimer’s disease. A Pew Research survey shows only 24% of highly religious respondents say they would want cognitive (mental) enhancement, compared with 44% of those with low levels of religious commitment.
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Albert Mohler, a leading thinker in the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest evangelical denomination in the U.S., questions the morality of trying to live significantly longer. “Christians certainly do not embrace death as a good in itself, but we understand that death is a part of what it means to be human, and that, indeed, the effort to forever forestall death is itself an act of defiance that will be both unworkable and morally suspect.”
There are some indications that the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church also might have serious reservations about life extension. The recently retired pope, Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger), expressed concern that postponement of death could leave society in a state where caregivers and the aged would comprise most of society. “Humanity would become extraordinarily old, there would be no more room for youth [and] capacity for innovation would die,” Benedict warned in a 2010 Holy Saturday homily.
In other words, aside from spending eternity in heaven, the Catholic Church is not in the earthly longevity business, despite the Bible being the most historically authoritative text on the subject with its prescription for fasting that can be compared to a modern lifespan-doubling calorie restricted diet.
Fasting is simply a forgotten practice in modern Christianity. Despite the fact the founders of Judaism (Abraham, Moses) and Christianity (Jesus) fasted (calorie restricted) and drank unfiltered wine (equivalent to a modern-day red wine pill), the modern church has not warmed up to the idea of living as long as Abraham (170 years) or Moses (120 years).
In a 2013 Pew Research survey, when it comes to super-longevity, defined as living 120 years, 56% of adults said they would not want to live 120 years or more, the current upper limit of the human lifespan. In a 2016 Pew Research survey almost seven of ten Americans (68%) said treatments to slow or reverse aging would be “fundamentally unnatural.” (Ungodly?)
Despite their defined roles in society to allay human suffering, both modern medicine and religion have self-interest in shunning the idea of an anti-aging pill. The modern horror of Alzheimer’s disease is that modern America does everything to foster the disease with high-fructose sugar-laced foods and brain-bending drugs that induce side-effects which impair the thinking of millions of Americans while any true advancement in preventing or reversing existing age-related brain deterioration like resveratrol is thrown back into the research closet and never put into practice. The news press fails to report and properly interpret developments that run contrary to political and industrial interests. America is too brain dead to notice.