Controlling Parkinson's Disease With Dietary Supplements: Updating the latest results from the Cochran Medical Foundation

Whole Foods magazine

May 1999

Controlling Parkinson's Disease With Dietary Supplements: Updating the latest results from the Cochran Medical Foundation

By Richard A. Passwater, Ph.D.


In March and April of 1998, we chatted with Tim Cochran, a therapeutic biochemist, about the Cochran regimens for treating heart disease and Parkinson's disease. The Cochran regimens are individual and disease-specific protocols utilizing 75 nutrients and accessory factors, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, coenzymes and hormones. In March 1998, we discussed cussed the results of a heart clinical trial that showed patients improved from an average New York Heart Association level of 3.1 (level 4 is near death) to an average of 1.4. This clinical improvement was accompanied by dramatic objective improvements in cardiovascular function.

On average, patients' blood pressures fell from 153.7 over 113 to 101.5 over 69.6, and their pulse rates dropped from 104 to 76. Concomitant with these amazing improvements in cardiovascular function, their blood chemistries also improved significantly. Average total blood cholesterol levels dropped 39.6 mg/dl; LDL-cholesterol (the so called "bad" cholesterol) levels dropped 48.3 mg/dl; HDL-cholesterol (the so called "good" cholesterol) increased by 14.5 mg/dl; HDL/LDL ratios improved by 216%; and triglycerides dropped 29.3 mg/dl.

In April 1998, we discussed preliminary results with Cochran regimens that are under development against several diseases. At that time, we reported how the first patient in the Parkinson's trial had immediate and profound results. Within 24 hours, symptoms diminished, and within 48 to 72 hours of treatment with the Cochran regimen, he no longer had any symptoms. The results continue to be outstanding and are drawing worldwide attention of experts in the field. Let's review the encouraging progress against this horrible disease.

Parkinson's disease affects about one million Americans, with an estimated 15% diagnosed before age 50. It is a chronic debilitating disease with symptoms that include tremors, stooped posture, slowed movements, stiffness, and balance difficulties. As the disease progresses, patients are unable to walk or talk, and, eventually, they are able to swallow only with great difficulty.

The disease is characterized by depressed levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for transmitting signals to nerves that control normal muscle movement. Scientific opinion varies as to the reason for the lowered dopamine levels, but explanations range from a genetic predisposition to oxidative stress to being exposed to toxins found in food or pesticides, or the toxic effects of some pharmaceuticals.

Passwater: You now have clinical trials under way. What previous studies had you done?

Cochran: Earlier, we did a pilot study of 10 patients, and a world-renowned specialist in Parkinson's disease remarked, when reviewing the findings, that nothing currently available can do this. As a result, he immediately started two of his patients on the Cochran regimen, and this success interested other neurologists in California, Texas, Arkansas, Ohio, and North Carolina, as well as Bangalore, India. We ran pilot trials based on some earlier pilot trials on 10 patients. Of the 10 patients, all showed improvement; for some it was moderate improvement, for others, remarkable improvement.

Several patients were able to discontinue their Parkinson's medication (Sinemet) after three-to-six weeks on the Cochran regimen. Most were able to at least cut back on their medication by 30-60%, while markedly decreasing symptoms. Thus, patients needing Sinemet every three hours at the start of the study needed Sinemet only every six-to-eight hours in a few weeks, while experiencing increased mental clarity and physical activity. Patients who, at the beginning of the Cochran regimen, could walk only 25-30 yards before having to stop and rest soon were able to walk 300-400 yards without rest. Patients on the Cochran regimen experienced reduced or eliminated soreness, stiffness and tremors. Their balance improved, and they were able to arise from chairs, get into and out of cars and go up and down stairs with little difficulty.

The patients remarked that their mental mood improved and that "their brains worked better." They were able to sleep better and longer. There have been no adverse effects reported during the three-year time that we have had individuals on the Cochran Parkinson's regimen. One patient experienced insomnia, but that disappeared promptly with an adjustment of his supplementation protocol.

We found several biomarkers-"signature" compounds that are associated with the disease-and we went about changing those biomarkers so that the patient's normal healthy biochemistry was restored. We noted several nutritional imbalances common to Parkinson's patients. Whatever the cause of the disease, it alters the biochemical balance. We could restore a normal balance by supplementation with the correct balance of 75 nutrients and accessory biochemical including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and hormones, but no pharmaceuticals are involved.

Based on these findings, we have started a 12-month closed clinical trial.

Passwater: Has the Cochran Parkinson's protocol been evaluated by independent physicians?

Cochran: We have discussed the regimen pilot trial results with some of the leading neurologists in the Parkinson's disease field. We described our pilot studies and they all said that our preliminary data were rather remarkable, and that we should proceed with a full clinical trial.

Passwater: The data must have been impressive to them.

Cochran: We also showed them before and-after videotapes of several of the patients. It is pretty impressive when, after only 10 days, some individuals can regain their mobility and cut their Sinemet down by 50% on the regimen. Physicians haven't semi, anything like it before so they are sort of shocked. Many of the patients (about 50%) have improved moderately, and about 30% have shown remarkable improvement.

I sent you one of the videotapes in which: you saw several Parkinson's patients--some of them that could walk only 25-30 yards and are now able to walk hundreds of yards. You could see their former difficulty getting in and out of chairs or cars: Then you saw their improvement to the point that you can't tell that they had Parkinson's disease.

Passwater: Yes, I have shown the video tape to several people. They all were 'amazed: What really moved me was listening to the patients and seeing how they beamed with happiness at their progress. They were so happy to share their progress with others and so proud of their new lease on life.

Cochran: The recovery rate depends on the severity of the case, how long the patient has had the disease and how old he or she is. It takes some people longer to achieve these results, but all seem pleased with their progress.

Passwater: You also used videotapes to help document your heart studies. They add human impact to the numbers.

Cochran: In the past, we had requested that all patients be videotaped. About half of the patients complied. However, we do have written statements from those who were not videotaped or from members of their families and also from their clinicians.

In the present clinical trial, all will be videotaped. We will videotape the patients at the start, a week later, four weeks later, eight weeks later, three months later, and six months later. This will show the progression of improvement.

Passwater: Does the progress plateau after six months?

Cochran: Progress plateaus only when all symptoms disappear. In some cases about 30% of the time-all symptoms do disappear. In other cases, most of the symptoms progressively decrease. We haven't reached any plateaus before complete remission of symptoms. Most of the improvement is seen in the first three t0 six months. Improvement still continues, but it becomes less dramatic because most of the radical improvement has happened within the first 90-180 days.

Passwater: Describe for our readers, specifically, what you mean by improvement. What do these videotapes document as being improved?

Cochran: Well, as you yourself have seen, many symptoms dissipate. Patients who had large amounts of pain (which is typical for Parkinson's), stiffness, rigidity, shuffling of feet that prevented them from taking a full extension or stride, difficulty getting in and out of a car, difficulty walking and difficulty maintaining balance all experienced some relief. Viewers of the tapes can see these situations changing. The tapes show balance improving. We see rigidity and stiffness start to dissipate. We see patients having a lot more energy, and they tell us that their pain is disappearing. Basically, we see a patient who, in as little as 10 days, is capable of getting in and out of a chair without any rocking and a lot more strength. We see patients who had difficulty going up and down staircases now being able to maneuver them as well and you and I can. There are patients who couldn't ride a bicycle before and who now are riding bicycles. The tapes document the better quality of life for these patients.

Passwater: How would this compare to patients normally receiving Parkinson's treatment with Sinemet and other pharmaceuticals?

Cochran: Basically Sinemet helps the neurotransmitter dopamine operate correctly. We attack Parkinson's disease through several different biochemical pathways. The first pathway is to restore proper metabolic rate in brain cells. In Parkinson's disease, the metabolic rate declines and the mitochondria inside the neuron cells aren't able to produce enough energy to send the message down the neurological track. If the message cannot be sent from one cell to the next-to the arms, legs, etc.-the individual won't have proper coordination of movement.

We also increase the energy storage compound ATP and help convert the coming carbohydrates in the mitochondria to produce more energy. We improve the efficiency of the citric acid (Krebs)

cycle the mitochondria to increase energy production. In addition, we held neurons produce more neurotransmitters, especially dopamine, and also, help the receptors in the target neurons capture the neurotransmitters.

I use the following analogy in my lectures: as the transmitter slowly and steadily deteriorates, it is like a door that is being closed gradually. Using pharmaceuticals is like trying to jam more and more4 people through that closing doorway. Our approach is to facilitate neurotransmitter function, which is my analogy is like opening the door wider. Then it is not necessary to use as much Sinemet or other drugs, and eventually, at least in some cases, patients may be able to go off drugs totally.

Then we look at renervation. If a neuron trunk is getting to the point where there is so much deterioration that we can't rebuild it, we try to make it jump over to another neuron trunk that currently is not activated. In every organ heart, liver, lungs and the brain-there are lots of cells that aren't doing much work. They never have been asked to, they never have been instructed to. When you develop in your mother's womb, you start moving your arms, eyes and hands around, and these are the trunks and transmitters that you develop. There is one sitting right next to them that has never been activated. We try, through biochemical means, to get some of these dormant cells activated so they can take some of the payload off the existing neuro trunk that has been operating since before the time you were born.

Passwater: What happens if patients discontinue the Cochran Parkinson's regimen? speak for themselves and that we are on the right track. If they didn't really believe this, they wouldn't be putting their patients on the regimen, as they are.

Cochran: Unfortunately, the symptoms return as the improved biochemical return as the improved biochemical environment reverts back to its damaged state. It may be that the longer a person is on the, regimen, the more permanent repair occurs, but we haven't had any patient who has been on the regimen for a long time discontinue the program. We have had a few who, within the first two weeks, had to interrupt their regimens briefly when they missed a delivery of the supplements. These individuals reported that the symptoms have returned slowly, beginning 48 hours or so after they discontinued the regimen.

The reason for this is that at the start, we haven't really repaired the system, but only have supplies the biochemical the body needs to function normally. Over time, the body begins to repair itself, but we have yet to complete studies to verify this. We are supplement the tools (nutrients) and instructions ( hormones) for cellular repair.

Passwater: What has the medical profession said about your strategy?

Cochran: My colleagues at the major universities with which we are working are quite impressed with the scientific principle-attacking the cause, not just the symptoms. They say that the results speak for them selves and that we are on the right track. If they didn't really believe this ,they wouldn't be putting their patients on the regimen, as they are.

Passwater: In getting ready for your clinical trails you obviously have to convince the medical researchers that it is safe. What can you say about the safety of the Cochran regimen?

Cochran: With all the patients involved in cardiovascular disease, Parkinson's disease, or other protocols that we are involved with, we have not had any problems with toxicity. Of course, gross and acute toxicity studies also have been performed with laboratory animals. The animal studies found no adverse effects whatsoever. In fact, they found nothing but improvements, and we will follow this up with longevity studies to see how much longer they ma live on the Cochran regimen compared to normal diets-or, as you always say, to see how they will live better longer.

Passwater: Is there a difference in the nutrition or the qualities of nutrients used in the Cochran Parkinson's disease regimen and the heart disease regimen?

Cochran: They are the same biochemical and nutrients, but not the same quantities, and their ratios are different. One researcher contacted us several years ago and asked us to start working on the Parkinson's disease riddle. He told us he was impressed with our success against heart disease and asked us to use our approach against Parkinson's disease. He noted both the oxidative stress hypothesis in the etiopathogenesis of Parkinson's disease and the fact that antioxidants have been used in treatment. In the DATATOP study, 2,000 IU of vitamin E alone did not significantly slow the progression of he disease, but the oxidative stress hypothesis is supported sufficiently that researchers were considering trying again with vitamin C and beta carotene added to the protocol.

He also agreed that coenzyme R-10, though not yet tried in a formal clinical study, could help energize mitochondria that may be damaged in Parkinson's disease. Also, since glutathione levels are low in Parkinson's disease, stimulating its production seemed to be a good idea. In Incidental Lewy Body disease, which is considered to be pre-symptomatic Parkinson's disease, a reduced glutathione level seems to be the sole deficit. This researcher concurred that hormones may help to potentiate growth of dopamine neurons as shown in experimental studies. Thus, he reasoned that the Cochran protocol of 75 nutrients and accessory factors could be effective.

It took us about nine months to develop a baseline formulation for the treatment of Parkinson's. We had some fairly good success when we first tried it with his early stage I (Hoehn and Yahr) Parkinson's patients. His patients observed a reduction in their tremors and stiffness. Their moods brightened. They slept better. Their Schwab and England scores improved from an average of 80% to 100%. Clinically, their tremors were barely seen on follow-up. From that point on, there have been different modifications as we learned more. But, no, the protocols are not the same.

Passwater: Do all patients in the Parkinson's regimen get the same formula? Is there one bottle for every one?

Cochran: They do not get exactly the same formula as it is adjusted for their weight height and the severity of the disease There is a baseline formulation and we see how patients respond to this over a 30-60 day period. We recheck their blood and monitor their biomarkers.

Although all patients show improvements on the baseline formula, some pathways may not be optimized in some patients, so we follow their progress with objective measurements of each pathway. The blood tests tell us the efficiency of response of each pathway Most patients have their formulations adjusted. Some components may be increased, or decreased. Basically, after approximately 60 days, each patient pretty much has a custom-made biochemical regimen based on his or her own improvement and blood work, as well as on the physiological changes seen by his or her physician.

Passwater: Are the nutrients given as different pills or as a powdered mix?

Cochran: It is a powdered mix containing 75 different biochemical. If we need to increase the dosage of a component, it is in the form of a pill. Typically, optimal response is obtained by taking the powdered drink three times a day.

Passwater: The complexity of your mixture is what stuns most traditional researchers. They prefer to vary one ingredient at a time and observe what happens. Nutritional therapy doesn't work that way-the nutrients work together as partners.

I agree with Dr. Bill Regelson, professor of medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, who said, "Who cares if we don't know what or which specific ingredients are of greatest benefit in the Cochran regimen. If it works and does not produce toxicity, we can await the development of an ingredient-by-ingredient review. What counts is that the clinical improvement in Parkinson's disease by the Cochran regimen cannot be denied. While we need to examine Cochran's findings in animal models to dissect the meaningful nature of the responses seen, this should not delay clinical testing to extend our understanding of what appears to be a real improvement in debilitated Parkinson's disease patients induced by feeding them the Cochran mixture."

Cochran: As you are aware, Dr. Regelson has been following our research for several years. I contacted him soon after I informed you of our clinical success with heart patients. He suggested that three of his friends go on the Cochran Parkinson's regimen, and he has had the opportunity to follow their progress. In a letter to me that I have shared with you, he stated that "the results suggest that the damage related to substantial nigral injury may be reparable. Responses support the possibility that there is enough regenerative power in the central nervous system (CNS) to permit recovery of brain stern function despite years of clinical symptomatology and significant motion disorder with marked clinical debility."

Dr. Regelson further remarked that "patients with Parkinson's disease have shown improvement in strength, decrease in tremor and clearing of sensorium, with it decreased need for Sinemet maintenance. flow can this occur despite years of intrinsic decline and the toxicity of exogenous dopaminergic dependency? The only answer must reside in some element of CNS reparative capacity that can respond to Cochran's polypharmacy."

His February 1998 letter continues, "while the FDA will hesitate to accept a formulation of 70-plus ingredients, what counts is the clinical result. In this regard, we must interpret the 'Wisdom of the Body,' Cannon's dictum presented in a nutraceutical context. If a polypharmacy formulation is benign and nontoxic, the body will choose those ingredients it needs to effect its physiologic response. This is the concept of eustasis-a cell or system will seek to correct its deficiencies if provided with the option."

Passwater: A mixture as opposed to a magic bullet is certainly new thinking. Have any of the Parkinson's associations been in touch with you?

Cochran: Yes. A Parkinson's foundation in New York City has contacted us and we have developed a relationship with its people They were aware of our research, which has been going on for the past several years. The neurologists who are working with us are members of the National Parkinson's Foundation and are "world-class" Parkinson's researchers. So there is a lot of networking. The New York City Parkinson's foundation contacted us about a year or so ago as the data on patients was quantified and verified with tapes and shared with them. I believe that in June they are going to be publishing an article on the Cochran Medical Foundation and the research that we are doing in Parkinson's disease and other neurological disorders.

Passwater: Will you publish the results of your clinical trials in the medical literature?

Cochran: Yes. The clinical trials presently under way will run for approximately 12 months. I am talking with some of our neurologists to see if we can get some of the information out earlier. Some data could be released for publication in peer-reviewed medical journals in about six months. That's something we will have to discuss internally. However, upon completion, we plan to release all of our data to peer-reviewed journals as quickly as we can.

Passwater: The clinical trials are essential to achieve tire acceptance of tire medical community. Nevertheless, the numbers in the studies blur the individual stories of each patient. Over the years, you have supplied me with much of your data and correspondence. I have selected one letter to sum up the personal meaning behind the numbers.

A lady from Houston, TX, wrote to you on December 30, 1998:

"My husband was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease some 12 years ago. In reality, we believe that he actually has been suffering from the disease for 14 or 15 years. The first symptoms were troubling, but not disabling-not like they were to become. The good news is that since Don has been on the Cochran formula for the past five weeks, our clock has turned back almost a year and a half. "When Don first started the formula, he was having trouble doing even the most basic tasks-walking, bathing, eating, and even turning in bed. The disease was taking over his life. Prior to the formula, his shaking was severe and the side effects from the Sinemet were disastrous. He was unable to leave the house, only taking very short walks outside and not going out in public at all. Yesterday, we had lunch out with our children and spent hours driving, seeing the world again. A few days before that, he was able to rejoin his friend at what used to be their daily breakfast out together. Last week, we realized that the gross motor tremors were almost gone. Don notices that his mind is clearer than it has been in some time. We have had several dinner parties at our home over the last two weeks, and Don actually has been able to join our guests for dinner, not just make an appearance. We have three children, aged 17,13 and 10. Thanks to the formula, we all believe that the children are getting their father back, and nothing could be more exciting for us all."

My favorite videotapes are of the lady who barely could walk at the start of the regimen now effortlessly riding a bicycle and the gentleman who was confined to a wheelchair gleefully showing us how he can get up from his chair at work and stroll down the hallway

When results such as these are being realized, it's impossible not to be impressed. Thank you for sharing the progress of your patients with us and bringing us up to date on your clinical trials. They will bring benefit to many people.

Cochran: Well, thank you and Dr. Bill Regelson for providing the background research that made my discoveries possible.

Passwater: That's why we did the research--so that someone could take it further and put it to good use. If anyone has further interest and wishes to follow the research trials or involve physicians in such monitoring, forms and a questionnaire can be obtained on the Cochran Medical Foundation. Website at, by e-mail at Cochran-Foundation@worldnet or by fax at (909) 338-4010. WF

1999 Whole Foods Magazine and Richard A. Passwater, Ph.D.

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