By Dale Bredesen, M.D., Chief Science Officer for Apollo Health

A primitive tribe in Papua New Guinea, called the Fore Tribe, suffered because many of its members died from a mysterious dementing illness called kuru, which is the Fore word for tremor, a feature of the disease. It turned out that the disease was so common because the women and children would eat the brains of their deceased relatives, becoming infected with the prions that cause the disease.

It is easy for those in less primitive countries to be a bit condescending, shake our heads, and say, “Of course, cannibalism was going to cause problems; these uneducated people did not realize that their practices would cause disease. and we would never do anything like that.” But is that true? Over the past few decades, we’ve discovered the critical contributors to Alzheimer’s disease, from insulin resistance to systemic inflammation to sleep apnea to dental infections to metabolic syndrome to various pollutants to chronic pathogens, and on and on — and the great news is that virtually every single one is treatable. Alzheimer’s disease is becoming optional, especially for those who get on active prevention or early treatment. Yet so many of us continue the very practices that we now know cause Alzheimer’s disease.

The Fore people ended their brain-eating ritual after learning of its relationship to kuru, and there have been no further cases of kuru since 2009. Now that we understand more about the contributors to Alzheimer’s, can we do as well?

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