Is the Alzheimer’s Amyloid Theory based on a Brain Scan Scam?

If you ask what causes Alzheimer’s one is often told it’s to do with the build up of amyloid plaque in the brain. This discovery was based on an important brain study 2006. “The highly influential paper, first published in 2006, has helped guide billions of dollars in US federal research into the disease.” reports the Guardian. Picking up on a report in the journal Science. “Critical elements of one of the most cited pieces of Alzheimer’s disease research in the last two decades may have been purposely manipulated.” The key author, Sylvain Lesné, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, is now under investigation by the university, says the Guardian. Co-author, Dr Karen Ashe, described the potential manipulation of images as “devastating,” to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The study, which looked at cognitive decline in mice, proposed that a specific amyloid protein may be responsible for cognitive decline. The problem is no-one else has managed to replicate it. Yet, it helped spawn more than 300 trials of drugs to lower amyloid protein, at an estimated research cost of over $40 billion.

The last hope was a drug called Aducanumab.  In March 2019, when Biogen announced they were halting their Phase 3 clinical trial of the drug since it showed no benefit, the New York Times reported “An Alzheimer’s Treatment fails: we don’t have anything now. More than 300 failed trials. With high hopes, drugs to fight brain plaques were tested in people genetically destined to develop dementia. The drugs failed.” In a normal world, if you test a theory 300 times and it fails 300 times you discard the theory – that amyloid plaques in the brain are what causes Alzheimer’s. I believe this theory, in which big pharma has invested tens of billions of dollars in research, is a red herring.

The best marker for Alzheimer’s is a high blood homocysteine level. We even know that high homocysteine, an indicator of faulty methylation, raises amyloid-protein. But is amyloid build up the cause or the consequence?

Even the best amyloid-protein lowering drugs, that have terrible side-effects, have reduced brain shrinkage by only 2 per cent yet not shown any clinical benefit. Compare this to an Oxford University trial giving B vitamins to those with high homocysteine levels who have good omega-3 fat status which not only reduced brain shrinkage by 73%, but also reported no further cognitive decline and, even better than that, 30% of the trial’s participants, who had pre-dementia, ended the treatment with a clinical dementia rating of zero. In other words, some even improved.

The big problem with homocysteine-lowering B vitamins, which have all the evidence any drug could ever hope for, is that they are cheap and unpatentable. So big pharma don’t want to know. But I bet you do. Homocysteine is a simple blood test that any GP can request. Yet very few ever do.