How to Reverse Dementia Naturally with The Bredesen Protocol

You may be doubtful that reversing cognitive decline and dementia is even possible.

I used to be too. 

But I want to point you to an amazing study published in the Aging Journal

It’s called “Reversal of cognitive decline: A novel therapeutic program” by Dr. Dale Bredesen, MD, professor at the Easton Laboratories for Neurodegenerative Disease Research at UCLA, and author of the book The End of Alzheimer's: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline

I recently stumbled upon it, and the results show that reversing cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease is definitely possible, despite what most doctors and experts may tell you. 

Based on the underlying pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease, Dr. Bredesen used a comprehensive therapeutic program to reverse cognitive decline in nine patients. 

The program involves multiple modalities, which I will be exploring in this post.

The study included 10 participants with Alzheimer's disease, amnestic mild cognitive impairment, or subjective cognitive impairment.

Within 3 to 6 months, nine of the 10 patients showed a significant improvement in memory and cognition.

Only one patient with very advanced Alzheimer's disease did not improve.

Before the study, six of the patients had to discontinue work or were struggling with their jobs.

After the study, all six of them returned to work or continued working successfully.

The improvements also continued long after the study ended.

An elderly man with dementia.

Why This Research Is So Important

Cognitive decline is obviously a major concern today. 

Alzheimer's disease is the major cause of age-related cognitive decline, with over 5 million Americans and 30 million people globally struggling with the disorder. I pulled these numbers from the study and they are probably even higher now.

Dementia is the third leading cause of death in the United States behind cardiovascular disease and cancer, and by 2050, it’s estimated that 13 million Americans and 160 million people globally will be affected by the disease (82). 

So we clearly need an effective prevention and treatment strategy, and conventional medicine is failing to deliver. 

As Dr. Bredesen points out: 

There is not a single therapeutic that exerts anything beyond a marginal, unsustained symptomatic effect, with little or no effect on disease progression. Furthermore, in the past decade alone, hundreds of clinical trials have been conducted for Alzheimer’s disease, at an aggregate cost of billions of dollars, without success. This has led some to question whether the approach taken to drug development for Alzheimer’s disease is an optimal one.
A person erasing the prefrontal cortex of the brain.

Instead, we need a multi-faceted approach to combat the illness.

There is no magic bullet to regaining your cognitive function.

I experienced this firsthand. 

And Dr. Bredesen recognized this, and tried something new with his patients.

And the results speak for themselves. 

Here is one of the cases from the study. I think this really demonstrates how conventional medicine fails so many people today:

A 67-year-old woman presented with two years of progressive memory loss. Her mother had developed similar progressive cognitive decline beginning in her early 60s, had become severely demented, entered a nursing home, and died at approximately 80 years of age. When the patient consulted her physician about her problems, she was told that she had the same problem her mother had had, and that there was nothing he could do about it. He wrote “memory problems” in her chart, and therefore the patient was turned down in her application for long-term care.

This woman then began Dr. Bredesen’s therapeutic protocol that I lay out below. 

She followed some of the protocol components, but not all of them.

Regardless, after three months, all her symptoms had decreased. She could:

An elderly woman smiling.
  • Navigate without problems;

  • Remember telephone numbers without difficulty;

  • Prepare reports and do her work without difficulty; and

  • Read and retain information.

Overall, her symptoms disappeared and she said her memory was better than it had been in many years. 

Two and one-half years later, now age 70, she still doesn’t have symptoms and continues to work full-time.

Without further ado, let’s jump into the therapeutic program that helped this woman and many others get remarkably better.  

1. Optimize Your Diet

The participants in Dr. Bredesen’s study followed a low-glycemic, low-inflammatory, low-grain diet. 

They eliminated all gluten and processed food from their diet, and increased their intake of vegetables, fruits, wild fish, grass-fed beef and organic chicken. 

Simple carbohydrates were also limited to minimize inflammation and reduce insulin resistance.

A cartoon man with a hole in the top of his head. His skull is full of fruits and vegetables.

This type of diet was followed because chronically elevated blood glucose leads to insulin resistance and diabetes, which have been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease (1, 7-9). 

In fact, a lot of brain health researchers and experts suggest that Alzheimer's disease should actually be called “Type 3 diabetes.”

So if you want to prevent and reverse cognitive decline, the first thing you should do is avoid processed food that contains refined carbohydrates (particularly flour and sugar) because they increase inflammation and cause blood sugar fluctuations.

Breakfast cereals, fruit juice and sport drinks containing high-fructose corn syrup are your brain’s worst enemies. 

My Free Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Brain Health contains a bunch of healthy brain-boosting foods that you can eat on a regular basis. 

2. Try Intermittent Fasting and Ketosis

Besides eating a healthy diet, Dr. Bredesen’s patients fasted for 12 hours every night, starting 3 hours before bedtime. 

They also consumed coconut oil because the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) within coconut oil enhance the production of “ketones,” an alternative source of energy for brain cells.

When your body and brain are running on ketones rather than glucose, you’re in a state of “ketosis.”    

Foods commonly part of a ketogenic diet. A ketogenic diet and ketones can help reverse dementia and cognitive decline.

And ketones and MCT oil have been shown to significantly improve cognition and memory in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease (6, 10-12). 

Researchers have also found that ketones and fasting can enhance “autophagy”, which is a process in which your body cleans itself and removes debris (4-5). 

And this autophagy process can reduce amyloid beta, the main component of amyloid plaques found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease (2-3). 

So if you’re trying to prevent dementia or reverse cognitive decline, intermittent fasting and ketogenic dieting should definitely be considered. 

As I’ve discussed before, fasting and ketones can also increase your brain’s growth hormone, help you overcome brain fog, and support your brain’s mitochondria

I personally fast for about 12 hours most days, and follow a ketogenic diet every now and then.

I also take Optimal Ketones, which are exogenous ketones that get my body into a state of ketosis more quickly. They immediately increase my mental clarity. 

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3. Reduce Your Stress

Alzheimer's disease is linked to high levels of cortisol, our body’s main stress hormone (13, 14). 

That’s why I highly recommend you try to do something every day to manage your stress. 

A woman meditating outside while the sun sets. Meditation and reducing stress can help prevent and reverse dementia and cognitive decline.

Stress management was also a main part of Dr. Bredesen’s therapeutic program, and participants managed their stress by taking up yoga and/or meditation

I previously discussed 20 different ways you can lower your cortisol. I recommend you check out that post

My favourite ways to reduce stress include neurofeedback, meditation (using the Muse headband), massage, acupuncture, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), emotional freedom techniques (EFT), heart-rate variability (HRV) training, and this acupressure mat

Some supplements that can help you reduce stress include zinc, magnesium, ashwagandha and phosphatidylserine.

Reducing stress can also help support the blood-brain barrier and increase your brain’s growth hormone.

This anti-anxiety supplement also includes a number of natural compounds that have personally helped me manage my stress over the years (Use the the coupon code FIVE$45496275 for a 5% discount).

4. Optimize Your Sleep

Recent evidence demonstrates that sleep and circadian disruption often occur early in the course of Alzheimer’s disease (80). 

So getting enough high-quality sleep was another key aspect of Dr. Bredesen’s therapeutic protocol. 

Participants in his study increased their sleep so that they got 7 to 8 hours every night.

A woman sleeping in bed next to a clock. Deep sleep and melatonin can help prevent and reverse dementia and cognitive decline.

They also supplemented with 0.5 mg of melatonin at bedtime. 

Melatonin is a hormone released by your pineal gland, a small gland in your brain. It helps control your sleep and wake cycles (circadian rhythm), and adequate levels of melatonin are necessary to fall asleep quickly and sleep deeply throughout the night.

And a considerable amount evidence suggests that melatonin can help prevent and treat major neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, Huntington's disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (15). 

In fact, one study found that patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease who supplemented with melatonin had significantly better cognitive performance and sleep quality compared to placebo (16). 

Besides supplementing with melatonin, here are some other steps you can take to maximize the quality of your sleep:

And consider taking this sleep supplement, which contains magnesium and a number of other natural compounds that I’ve used over the years to promote the production of melatonin.

Deep sleep can also improve your brain’s growth hormone and lower your stress hormone

5. Exercise

Not surprisingly, exercise was an important aspect of Dr. Bredesen’s program. 

Participants exercised for 30-60 minutes, 4-6 days each week.  

The types of exercise included swimming, cycling and running. 

A cartoon brain running on a treadmill. Exercise can help prevent and reverse cognitive decline and dementia.

Lots of human and animal research demonstrates that exercise supports the brain, improves learning and memory, protects from neurodegeneration, and alleviates depression, particularly in elderly populations (18). 

Other studies have shown that physical activity can help preserve brain volume in individuals at increased genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease (19, 20). 

Many brain health experts recommend exercise as their number one piece of advice for optimal brain health. 

And as I’ve discussed before, it can increase your brain’s growth hormone and strengthen your mitochondria

You should choose a sport or exercise routine that you enjoy, so that you’ll stick with it consistently. 

I plan on discussing my exercise routine in more depth soon, but for now, this is the general gist of it:

  • Lift heavy weights 1-4 times per week

  • High-intensity interval sprinting 1-2 times per week

  • Walk as much as I can (ideally 30-60 minutes every day)

6. Reduce Homocysteine

Another aim of Dr. Bredesen’s protocol was to reduce homocysteine

Homocysteine is an inflammatory compound at high levels, and can contribute to the development of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. However, certain B vitamins have been shown to normalize homocysteine levels and reduce the rate of cognitive decline (21-24).

As a result, the participants in Dr. Bredesen’s study supplemented with methy-B12, methyl-folate, and P-5-P (bioactive B6)

Trimethylglycine (TMG) and S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) also lower homocysteine

Here is a complete article all about how to lower homocysteine. 

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7. Increase Your Vitamin B12 Levels

As I just mentioned, homocysteine can be lowered by certain B vitamins, including Vitamin B12

But in and of itself, Vitamin B12 deficiency can contribute to cognitive decline, and higher levels of vitamin B12 are associated with slower rates of cognitive decline (25). 

Participants in Dr. Bredesen’s study took 1000 mcg of methyl-b12 daily. 

B12 is part of this supplement

8. Reduce Your Inflammation

Reducing inflammation was another main goal of Dr. Bredesen’s program.

This is because cutting-edge research suggests that inflammation plays a critical role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease (26, 27).

Turmeric powder and whole turmeric. Curcumin, the main beneficial compound in turmeric, can help reduce inflammation. Inflammation is involved in the development of cognitive decline and dementia.

Long-term use of anti-inflammatory drugs has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing the disease, and blocking brain inflammation halts the progression of the disorder (28, 29). 

So not only did the participants follow an anti-inflammatory diet; they also supplemented with curcumin and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to significantly reduce inflammation. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in fish and are necessary for optimal functioning of your brain and nervous system. 

That’s why I personally eat salmon regularly and supplement with this krill oil.

And curcumin is included in Optimal Energy.

9. Balance Your Hormones

Balancing hormones is another important aspect of optimal brain health and cognition, and Dr. Bredesen didn’t ignore this fact.

A key part of his program was to optimize several hormones, including progesterone, pregnenolone, cortisol, estrogen, testosterone and thyroid hormones

He points to studies showing that estrogen use is associated with less cognitive decline among women (30, 31). 

Some of the patients in his study undertook hormone replacement therapy. 

I recommend checking out my previous post about how to manage your body’s main stress hormone, cortisol. You can read it here

I've also discussed 13 different ways to support your thyroid and its hormones.

I plan on writing more about hormones soon. 

10. Improve Your Gut Health

Improving gut health is another way to prevent cognitive decline and dementia.

Some of the participants in Dr. Bredesen’s study took probiotics, and Dr. Bredesen mentions that prebiotics (like resistant starch) can be beneficial as well. 

Gut bacteria. Improving gut health can prevent and reverse cognitive decline and dementia.

This is because many studies show that probiotics and prebiotics can reduce inflammation (32-36). 

That’s why I eat prebiotic-rich foods regularly, including sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, asparagus and squash. These foods promote the growth of many different strains of good bacteria in your lower bowel and are included in my free grocery shopping guide for optimal brain health

Resistant starch is one of the most potent ways to boost your prebiotic intake. A convenient way to incorporate more of it into your diet is by using Bob’s Red Mill Unmodified Potato Starch. Other high-quality resistant starches include banana flour, plantain flour and waxy maize. Cooked and cooled white rice and potatoes also contain some resistant starch. 

For probiotics supplementation, I created and take the Optimal Biotics supplement

If you want to learn more, check out this post where I share five ways to improve your gut health. 

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11. Reduce Amyloid Beta

Another of objective of Dr. Bredesen’s therapeutic program was to reduce amyloid beta, the main component of amyloid plaques found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease.

A couple of supplements have been shown to do that, and participants in Dr. Bredesen’s study supplemented with them. 

The first one was curcumin. Not only is curcumin anti-inflammatory, but it’s also been shown to reduce neurodegeneration because it can reduce amyloid plaque and prevent the build up of amyloid beta (37, 38). 

The other supplement is ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb with anti-anxiety and neuroprotective effects. 

Studies show that ashwagandha can reverse behavioural deficits, plaque pathology and the accumulation of amyloid beta peptides in the brains of mice with Alzheimer's disease (39). 

I personally take and recommend this curcumin and this ashwagandha regularly. 

12. Enhance Your Cognition

Enhancing the cognition of the participants was another goal of Dr. Bredesen’s protocol. 

Dr. Bredesen’s did this by giving participants two different compounds.

The first was 250 mg of bacopa monniera, an adaptogenic herb with cognitive-enhancing effects.

A blue brain.

Several studies show that bacopa improves cognition and memory by enhancing the rate of communications between brain cells. It does this by increasing the growth of nerve endings.

Both healthy and elderly people who take the herb experience improved attention, learning and memory (40-43). 

It’s important to note that it takes about 4 to 6 weeks for bacopa to take effect and start working. 

Bacopa is included in this supplement

The other substance used in the study was magnesium threonate, a recently-developed form of magnesium that can promote learning and memory by increasing magnesium in the brain. It’s been shown to reduce amyloid beta plaque and prevent further memory decline in mice with Alzheimer’s disease (44-46). 

I stick with regular magnesium daily, but do take this magnesium threonate every so often. I noticed my sleep is better when I take the threonate form

I previously wrote about the many brain and mental health benefits of magnesium here

13. Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that our skin synthesizes when exposed to the sun.

A sunset. Sunlight and Vitamin D is important in order to prevent and reverse cognitive decline and dementia.

Every tissue in your body has vitamin D receptors, including the brain, heart, muscles, and immune system. This means your entire body needs it to function properly and a deficiency can lead to costly physiological and psychological consequences, including dementia and cognitive decline.

Research shows that vitamin D deficiency is associated with a substantially increased risk dementia and Alzheimer disease (47). 

That's why I highly recommend checking your Vitamin D levels. You can order the test yourself here. It's one of the most important tests you can take for your health.

The participants in Dr. Bredesen’s study took between 2,000 to 5,000 IU of Vitamin D3 every day. 

I personally take this supplement.

Vitamin D can also help you overcome brain fog, and increase your brain’s growth hormone.

14. Increase Nerve Growth Factor (NGF)

Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a neuropeptide involved in the growth, maintenance, and survival of neurons.

Studies show that NGF is reduced in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease, and animal studies suggest that increasing NGF can reverse, halt and slow the progression of dementia (48-51). 

A lion. Lion’s mane mushroom is a supplement that can increase nerve growth factor and help prevent and reverse cognitive decline and dementia.

Dr. Bredesen didn’t ignore the link between dementia and NGF, and recommended two supplements to increase NGF – acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) and lion’s mane mushroom

Acetyl-L-carnitine is an acetylated form of the amino acid carnitine. It has neuroprotective and cognitive-enhancing effects, and has been shown to increase NGF in the central nervous system (52). 

ALCAR gives me a boost in mental energy, and can help eliminate brain fog, protect your brain from alcohol, and support your mitochondria

It's included in the Optimal Brain supplement

The other supplement that can increase NGF is lion’s mane mushroom (also known as Hericium erinaceus). 

Research shows that it contains active compounds that stimulate the synthesis of NGF (53). 

I recently started taking this lion’s mane mushroom. It’s one of the highest-quality lion’s mane mushroom supplements that I could find from a reputable brand. I spent a lot of time researching and looking into different sources and settled on this one. You can get it here or here.

15. Build New Brain Synapses

Another goal of Dr. Bredesen’s program was to promote the synthesis of new brain synapses in the participants.

As a result, he recommended oral administration of Citicoline and omega-3 fatty acids, which are the structural components of synapses, and have been shown to support the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases who have experienced synaptic loss (54). 

Citicoline is the most bioavailable form of choline, an essential B vitamin that most people don’t consume enough of, because very few foods in the Western diet contain it.

Not only does it promote the synthesis of new brain synapses, it also has anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects, and enhances the synthesis and release of acetylcholine and dopamine – two neurotransmitters that are critical for optimal brain function and mental health (55-60). 

Brain synapses.

Unfortunately, many prescription drugs are anticholinergic, meaning they reduce acetylcholine in the brain.

The commonly-prescribed antidepressant Wellbutrin is anticholinergic, meaning it inhibits the physiological action of acetylcholine. I took Wellbutrin for multiple years and experienced gradual cognitive decline during that time. 

In fact, one of the participants in Dr. Bredesen’s study worked with her doctor to reduce her daily dose of Welbutrin because of its known anticholinergic effects. 

I personally take Citicoline every day now. I find it improves my focus and mental energy. You can also find some choline in beef liver and egg yolks.

And as I mentioned earlier, I eat salmon regularly and take this krill oil supplement for my omega-3 fatty acids.

In addition to choline and omega-3 fatty acids, supplementing with uridine is also a good idea if you’re struggling with cognitive decline. Research shows that these three nutrients are “synergistic” and work together to boost dopamine and increase the formation of synapses in the brain (61, 62). 

Check out this article for 12 other ways to form new synapses in the brain. 

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16. Optimize Your Intake of Antioxidants

Another key aspect of preventing and overcoming dementia is optimizing your intake of antioxidants

Dr. Bredesen included a number of antioxidants as part of his protocol:

Several other studies have found that a combination of nutrients and antioxidants – including NAC, ALA, Vitamin C and Vitamin E – can improve cognitive functioning and decrease symptoms of dementia (63-68). 

This is likely because oxidative stress plays a major role in the development of cognitive decline, and these antioxidant nutrients and plant compounds can counteract this (69-71). 

17. Balance Zinc and Copper

As I’ve discussed before, consuming too much copper and not enough zinc can be a huge problem and contribute to anxiety and stress. 

But it can also contribute to various other brain and mental health problems, including cognitive decline and dementia.

Researchers believe ingestion of copper from tap water is one of the root causes of Alzheimer’s disease, as they routinely find high levels of copper in Alzheimer's patients.

Elevated levels of copper are also linked to cognitive impairment (72). 

Zinc symbol and zinc supplement capsules. A zinc deficiency can contribute to the development of cognitive decline and dementia.

Furthermore, zinc plays a critical role in the protection of brain cells, and studies show that Alzheimer's patients are deficient in zinc (72). 

One study found that zinc supplementation protected against cognitive decline by restoring zinc levels and reducing copper levels (72). 

So not surprisingly, the patients in the main study supplemented with zinc if they were deficient. 

I also supplement with zinc. I created and take the Optimal Zinc supplement.

Check out my previous post about zinc and copper if you’re interested in discovering more steps you can take to increase zinc and lower copper levels. 

18. Optimize Your Mitochondria

It’s becoming increasingly clear that chronic dysfunction of mitochondria is another underlying factor that contributes to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

Mitochondria are considered the “powerhouses of the cell,” generating most of the energy in your body.

Mitochondria. Support mitochondria health is an important part of preventing and reversing cognitive decline and dementia.

Mitochondria are especially abundant in your brain cells and involved in many important biological processes in the brain. 

So not surprisingly, numerous studies show that there is a correlation between impaired mitochondrial functioning in the brain and many psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases.

But luckily, there are ways to halt and reverse mitochondrial decay, like Dr. Terry Wahls has

To support the mitochondria of the participants, Dr. Bredesen’s therapeutic protocol included the following nutrients:

The Optimal Energy supplement is a mitochondrial formula that includes many of these nutrients and natural compounds.

I also recommend checking out my previous post about mitochondria and brain health. It includes several other steps you can take to support your mitochondria. You can read it here

19. Pantethine and Resveratrol

Pantethine, the bioactive form of Vitamin B5, is one of my favourite nutrients for mood, energy, focus and motivation. 

It was included in Dr. Bredesen's protocol to improve the focus and concentration of the participants. 

Glass of red wine and red grapes. Resveratrol is an antioxidant in red grapes and red wine, and it has been shown to help prevent and reverse cognitive decline and dementia.

Pantethine also plays a key role in the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is important for memory and learning (81). 

Lastly, Dr. Bredesen’s therapeutic program also included supplemental resveratrol.

This is because it increases SirT1 function, and SirT1 has neuroprotective effects (73-79). 

Resveratrol can also help support your mitochondria, boost your brain’s growth hormone, and repair a leaky blood-brain barrier


Overall, it appears that memory loss in patients with subjective cognitive impairment, mild cognitive impairment, and at least the early phase of Alzheimer's disease, can be reversed with the therapeutic program.

Optimizing one of these areas can help somewhat, but the combination of all of them is very powerful and can have a significant effect. 

This is the first study I’ve seen that combines a lot of the advice I give through my website into one study, and I’m very happy it exists. 

What’s amazing about it is that six of the 10 patients had to discontinue working or were struggling with their jobs, but after the study, they all could return to work or their performance at work improved significantly.  

I hope this gives a lot of people hope that they can get better and improve the quality of their life. 

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Fred Hui, MD, CCFP, CAFC

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