Dementia - a symptom with many causes from Alzheimers to poisonings

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Dementia is not a diagnosis - it is a symptom of some underlying dysfunction. Dementia is not an inevitable consequence of ageing - it always has a cause.

The early signs of dementia are brain fog, poor short term memory, poor concentration, difficulty learning and so on. If these symptoms are tackled early then progression to dementia may be halted.

Causes of dementia

Poor energy supply to the brain

Prion disorders

See Prion disorders: Alzheimer's Disease; Parkinson's Disease; Creutzfeldt-Jacob's Disease & Motor Neurone Disease.

Poor blood supply

See Arteriosclerosis - what causes it and how to prevent it.

Hormonal disturbances

Myxoedema madness (underactive thyroid) is a much forgotten diagnosis. This is often overlooked in Down's sydrome, where the mental retardation is put down to the Down's and no thought is given to other possible diagnoses. See Hypothyroidism and Thyroid profile: free T3, free T4 and TSH


Anatomical problems

The following are all possible causes of dementia. Any patient with a progressive dementia should have a brain scan.

  • Brain tumours
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Blood clots (subdural haematoma).

Alzheimer's disease - but is the diagnosis correct?

Only too often I see patients who have gone demented and have been diagnosed as having Alzheimer's without having been properly investigated to exclude other causes. If I had a patient with dementia I would want to go through:

Possible cause of Alzheimer's

The link between Alzheimer's and aluminium was discovered at a renal unit in Leeds, where 10% of the patients developed "dialysis dementia". It was discovered that the water used for dialysis was not distilled water but tap water. Alum is used to clear tap water (otherwise the water was brown from the peat). Aluminium in the alum, therefore, passed freely into these patients causing dialysis dementia.


Aluminium should be avoided. The main sources are:

  • Deodorants - nearly all are aluminium based and pasted on under the arms in sweaty areas where they can easily be absorbed.
  • Antacids (acid blockers - it amazes me that these are allowed to contain aluminium!)
  • Aluminium pots and pans, cooking foil
  • Aluminium cans for drinks
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Aluminium is made more toxic where there is a zinc or selenium deficiency. Both are very common.

As a good reference point:

Wang et al (2016) in a systematic review of chronic exposure to aluminium and risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD) which considered eight cohort and case-control studies (with a total of 10567 subjects) concluded that: ‘Results showed that individuals chronically exposed to aluminium were 71% more likely to develop AD.’

Reference - Chronic exposure to aluminum and risk of Alzheimer's disease: A meta-analysis

Reversal of cognitive decline: A novel therapeutic program

Dr Dale E. Bredesen published a paper in September 2014 with the above title. 10 patients, including patients with memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease, amnestic mild cognitive impairment, or subjective cognitive impairment were treated with a ketogenic diet, supplements and hormones, etc. Nine of the 10 displayed subjective or objective improvement in cognition beginning within 3‐6 months, with the one failure being a patient with very late stage AD. The same interventions and principles apply to my ME patients who essentially have an early "dementia" due to poor energy delivery mechanisms. However since the brain is plastic in the early stages this is all reversible- as my patients demonstrate! The full paper can be viewed here - Reversal of Cognitive decline - Dr Bredesen

Dr Bredesen has published the following books

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