Dairy and Alzheimer’s Disease
Everyone wishes they could take a pill every day to avoid Alzheimer’s. But what if avoiding dairy was that pill!
”This is a tidal wave of Alzheimer’s disease that is now upon us,” says Dr. Keith Fargo, director of Scientific Programs & Outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association. “We’ve been saying baby boomers are getting older and we have to be ready. Now it’s here. It’s here. And it’s not going away unless we do something serious about it. Ultimately we want to eradicate this disease. That is possible.”
Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease. And the CDC says that over the next few decades, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s is projected to quadruple2.
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia, and there are more than 100 types. It’s not rare for someone to be afflicted by more than one type. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, accounting for 50 – 70% of cases. Most cases of Alzheimer’s disease are attributed to a gradual buildup of plaque or debris in the brain that damages or inhibits nerve function. This form of the disease typically builds in stages and over the course of decades.
Early stage Alzheimer’s starts with basic memory loss that slowly begins to interfere with routine activities, including difficulties with minor problem solving, misplacing things, or changes in mood and personality. As the disease progresses, people with Alzheimer’s might have problems recognizing friends or family members. In advanced stages, people with Alzheimer’s often have difficulty controlling basic motor skills and body functions, and may become bed ridden.
For those afflicted, Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease. And for the friends or family who care for Alzheimer’s patients, the disease can take a huge emotional and financial toll. “For every person with Alzheimer’s disease, there are three unpaid caregivers, usually family members, sometimes friends as well,” says Dr. Fargo of the Alzheimer’s Association. “We know that it’s bad for the caregivers, too– it takes a huge toll on their health. Alzheimer’s caregivers have $9 billion more in Medicare claims for their own health.”
The cost of caring for Americans with Alzheimer’s and other dementia is currently estimated at over a quarter trillion dollars ($290 billion) for 2019. Of that amount, about two-thirds is the cost to Medicare and Medicaid, and about one-third ($96 billion) is for out-of-pocket costs borne by caregivers.3 The CDC estimates that total costs of care for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia will exceed $1 trillion over the next few decades– and that doesn’t include the thousands of hours of unpaid caregiving needed for each patient by their family and friends, nor the $billions for their own healthcare needs.
Approximately 5.8 million Americans now have Alzheimer’s disease, and about 5.6 million of them are 65 years and older. By 2025, the number of seniors with Alzheimer’s is expected to exceed 7 million, an increase of almost 30 percent in just 5 years. And, “if no new treatments are found,” the Alzheimer’s Institute predicts that number could reach 14 million by 20504.
The healthcare industry in America has trained us to think about chronic, debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s in binary terms of “treatment”, as in the management of the disease versus its cure. But what about prevention?
Some have claimed that Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia can’t be prevented, but one study found that at least one-third of dementia cases could be prevented by better managing metabolic and cerebrovascular risk factors:
metabolic factors include being overweight or obese, high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, low levels of good (HDL) cholesterol, and insulin resistance; and
cerebrovascular risk factors include atherosclerosis, embolism, aneurysms, and arterial dissections.
These are essentially the same set of risk factors as cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke. Why don’t they just say that? And why not just advise, “like CVD, these risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are best managed through diet…”
The independent (non-corporate-funded) research is fairly conclusive on the management of dietary risk factors for CVD. As we explored in the articles on Heart Disease and Obesity, the leading dietary culprit in both diseases is saturated fat. And as those articles explain, the independent research has proven– despite various counterclaims by dairy-funded research– the leading source of saturated fat in Americans’ diet is the saturated dairy fat dairy-based foods.
As Dr. Mike Rayner, Professor of Population Health at Oxford University has said,
And as reported in our exploration of Dairy and Obesity: over the past two decades, the consumption of fluid cow’s milk has decreased, as independent (non-corporate-funded) research has made much clearer the myriad negative health impacts of consuming cow’s milk, including obesity5. But two other much deadlier dairy foods have gained dominant share in Americans’ daily diet: cheese and butter. Since 1970, Americans have doubled their butter intake6 and more than tripled their cheese intake from 11 lbs of cheese per person in 1970 to 36.9 lbs per person as of 20177.
Butter and cheese are now the leading sources of saturated fat in Americans’ diet, and both are loaded with cholesterol, sodium, and among the most calorie dense foods per volume.
The exponential increases in Amercans’ consumption of cheese and butter over the past few decades (and thereby the exponential increase in Americans’ dairy saturated fat intake) was not the result of natural consumer demand, as the corporate media typically portrays it8. Increased dairy fat consumption was the result of a mass consumer marketing campaign launched by the USDA in collaboration with BigDairy and the fast-food industry beginning back in 20009.
In a New York Times article titled, While Warning About Fat, [the USDA] Pushes Cheese, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Moss reports on the USDA’s inherent conflict of interest with BigDairy. Moss revealed that the USDA provides an annual budget of around $140 million to promote cheese for BigDairy, but only provides less than 5% ($6.5 million) of that amount to promote healthful eating via its Dietary Guidelines for Americans. “The same agency at the center of the federal anti-obesity drive is supposed to discourage over-consumption of [dairy saturated fat]..yet the [USDA]..is engaged in an effort to find ways to get dairy back into Americans’ diets, primarily through cheese.”
The agency at the center of Alzheimer’s awareness is the Alzheimer’s Association. The agency’s core programming is to “increase Concern and Awareness” about Alheimer’s and “fight for critical Alzheimer’s research”. So, what does the Alzheimer’s Association have to say about butter and cheese? In their blog post, Keeping The Holiday Table Simple, their food blogger writes about “..the best fried potatoes on the planet.. laced with onions, garlic and butter— perfection!” And “for families facing Alzheimer’s..ideas to keep holiday cooking simple but delicious” include..a really great lasagna..or risotto..use whatever cheese you like most.”
At their “Baked Potato Fundraiser” in San Antonio last year, the Alzheimer’s Association tempted participants with: “pulled pork, bacon, cheese, butter, and sour cream.” And just last week, an Alzheimer’s Association “Meet Up” was held at Hornstra Dairy Farm in Norwell, MA. As advertised, the event was “intended for persons with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia and their care partner(s) to take “a guided tour of the farm and see for yourselves exactly where your milk begins and ends,” and to “end the tour with a nice glass of farm fresh milk or ice cream!”
The Alzheimer’s Association does a lot of fundraising, with total annual donations exceeding $350 MILLION. And the Association is not getting that kind of money from Baked Potato Fundraisers… Indeed, their Top Corporate Donors that “help the Alzheimer’s Association advance vital research and provide educational programming,” include BigPharma giants: AbbVie, Acadia Pharmaceuticals, Amgen/Novartis, Avanir/Otsuka, Biogen, Eli Lilly, Eisai, GEHC, Genentech/F. Hoffman, LaRoche, Lundbeck/Otsuka, Merck, Procter & Gamble & Pfizer.
It is naive to ignore the fact that BigPharma and the US healthcare industry make hundreds of billions of dollars each year on the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Especially given the fact that total healthcare revenues in the US alone now make up about 20% of the US GDP. That’s about $4 trillion per year. For comparison, US healthcare revenues exceed the total GDP of Japan, the third largest national economy in the world. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to question the integrity of public messaging and research promoted by the Alzheimer’s Association whose Top Major Donors are dominated by BigPharma corporations.
If a third of all dementia cases can be prevented10, essentially by changes in diet, including the elimination of saturated dairy fat, why isn’t the Alzheimer’s Association spending a third of its $350 MILLION in annual revenues promoting non-dairy cheese and non-dairy butter? The Alzheimer’s Association claims to advocate “low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods.”
So, what possible good can the Alzheimer’s Foundation be doing for those Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers by promoting, “the best fried potatoes on the planet.. laced with butter”; “really great lasagna..or risotto..[with] whatever cheese you like most”; “baked potatoes with “pulled pork, bacon, cheese, butter, and sour cream” and “with a nice glass of farm fresh milk or ice cream!”…?
In summary, approximately 5.8 million Americans now have Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is increasing exponentially. By 2025, the number of seniors with Alzheimer’s is expected to exceed 7 million, an increase of almost 30 percent in just 5 years. One third of those Alzheimer’s patients (2.3 million people) AND their +6 million caregivers could possibly prevent the devastating toll on their physical and mental health and finances by improving lifestyle factors now, including eliminating dairy saturated fat, especially cheese and butter from their diets.
The price tag on caring for Americans with Alzheimer’s and other dementia is currently estimated at over a quarter Trillion dollars ($290 billion) for 2019. The CDC estimates that total costs of care for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia will exceed $1 trillion over the next few decades– and that doesn’t include the thousands of hours of unpaid caregiving needed for each patient by their family and friends, nor the $billions for their own healthcare needs. About a third of those costs (over $300 billion) could be saved by promoting education, exercise and a brain-healthy diet that replaces dairy saturated fat with healthy non-dairy milk, cheese and butter substitutes.
The Alzheimer’s Association currently has a $350 MILLION annual budget to promote “awareness” and “treatment” of Alheimer’s disease, with Top Major Donors dominated by BigPharma corporations. The Alzheimer’s Association currently includes promotion of such foods as “fried potatoes..laced with butter”; “ lasagna..or risotto..[with] whatever cheese you like most”; “..pulled pork, bacon, cheese, butter, and sour cream” and “with a nice glass of farm fresh milk or ice cream!” Such promotion is inconsistent and in direct conflict with the Alzheimer’s Association claim to advocate “low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods.”
Doctors Against Dairy can only conclude that the Alzheimer’s Association is either incompetent in their advocacy for Alzheimer’s sufferers and their caregivers, or the Alzhemier’s Association has effectively devolved into a marketing arm for BigPharma to sustain their growing market of Alzheimer’s sufferers. Doctors Against Dairyencourages Alzheimer’s sufferers and their caregivers to contact the Alzheimer’s Association about its lack of consistency and focus on dietary prevention; to challenge the Alzheimer’s Association to cease its promotion of dairy-saturated fats and instead invest in promotion of healthy non-dairy foods.
Finally, Doctors Against Dairy advises those at risk of Alzhemier’s disease and their caregivers to do their own research and draw their own conclusions about the causes, treatment and prevention of this devastating disease. Seek out independent, non-corporate-funded research and institutions that are providing consistent advice about Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment.
Alzheimer’s Association report, “2019 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures,” https://www.alz.org/media/Documents/alzheimers-facts-and-figures-2019-r.pdf
Alzheimer’s Association report
Catherine S. Berkey, ScD; Helaine R. H. Rockett, MS, RD; Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH; et al, “Milk, Dairy Fat, Dietary Calcium, and Weight Gain, A Longitudinal Study of Adolescents,” Jama Pediatrics, Jama Networks, June 2005, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/486041
Leslie Patton, “Americans Are Eating More Butter Than Ever,” Food, Bloomberg, March 14, 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-14/a-fatty-staple-once-public-health-enemy-no-1-makes-a-comeback
Jeanine Bentley, “Trends in U.S. Per Capita Consumption of Dairy Products, 1970-2012,” Statistic: Food Consumption & Demand, Amber Waves Magazine, United States Department of Agriculture, June 2, 2014, https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2014/june/trends-in-us-per-capita-consumption-of-dairy-products-1970-2012/
Erica Chayes Wida, “What’s America’s favorite cheese? It’s actually not American,” Today.com, NBC Universal, June 4, 2018, https://www.today.com/food/these-are-america-s-favorite-cheeses-t130147
Dr. Neal Barnard, “USDA’s fast-food partnerships to push cheese is a health conflict,” The Hill, April 8, 2018, https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/382123-usdas-fast-food-partnerships-to-push-cheese-is-a-health-conflict
Prof Gill Livingston, MD; Andrew Sommerlad, MSc; Vasiliki Orgeta, PhD; Sergi G Costafreda, PhD; Jonathan Huntley, PhD; Prof David Ames, MD; et al, “Dementia prevention, intervention and care,” The Lancet Commissions, The Lancet, July 19, 2017, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)31363-6/fulltext#section-3d6acba1-acea-4be2-8dc9-b7e14e5b6583