A correspondent asked me to review a video presentation by Steven Fowkes, “Nutrients for Better Mental Performance,” one segment of a 9-part series on preventing and curing Alzheimer’s that was mentioned recently by an SBM commenter. Fowkes is an organic chemist without a PhD; he says this means:

I am not institutionalized [This begs for a joke, but I will refrain.] and see the world differently. Everything I know I learned outside the system.

He is associated with CERI, the Cognitive Enhancement Research Institute and has written extensively on nutrition and health. I’ll comment on his claims for Alzheimer’s and herpes first, and then return to the “Nutrients for Better Mental Performance” video next week.


He says he can prevent Alzheimer’s disease and cure it in the early stages, although later damage will not be reversible. And yet he doesn’t actually specify the details of how he accomplishes that miracle: apparently it’s complicated (I would imagine so) and varies with the individual. Science doesn’t know what causes Alzheimer’s, but Fowkes does. The current thinking of scientists is that it is due to genetic factors interacting with environmental factors, and it might be a natural consequence of the aging process that would eventually affect anyone who lives long enough. Fowkes says it involves a complicated domino cascade of effects, but the cause boils down to loss of glutathione cycling and failure of sulfhydryl enzymes, which  interferes with the detoxification of mercury in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

He says the brain is special and is more sensitive to thyroid imbalance, inflammation, and other factors. Aerobic metabolism is particularly important in the brain, since it is far more efficient than anaerobic metabolism and is needed to support multicellular life, the central nervous system, and consciousness. He goes into great detail about the energy production mechanisms in metabolic processes, discussing the Krebs cycle, phosphorylation, microtubules, antioxidant defenses, NADH, NADPH, recycling of glutathione, how sulfhydryl enzymes are poisoned by mercury, etc.

He assumes that Alzheimer’s patients have increased mercury levels in their brains. There are a couple of older studies that appeared to show that they do, but these are contradicted by studies done since showing that they don’t. If there is not extra mercury in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, all the rest of his reasoning fails. He has built a huge house of cards on a tiny wobbly foundation. He assumes that removing the mercury or correcting an imbalance between mercury and glutathione ought to improve Alzheimer’s, but he has no clinical data.

The fact that Alzheimer’s is reversible should be front page news. He says the news has been suppressed because:

  • The breakthrough came through the back door (research done by a few dentists).
  • Mainstream dentists rejected the information because it showed that amalgams and root canal procedures were not safe.
  • The medical establishment rejected it because it undermines prescription options and points to supplements everyone can buy.

He tries to relate complicated biochemistry diagrams to clinical topics.  Cardiovascular conditions impact cognitive function. Hypercoagulability is caused by inflammation. There are blood gas impairments in lung disease. pH disturbances alter O2 binding in the blood. Hiccups and tachycardia are examples of CO2 deficiency and are more common in people with senility and low energy metabolism.

Plaque can cause cognitive dysfunction by restricting blood flow.  Plaque is sometimes caused by impaired collagen maturation which he says can be readily reversed by Mathias Rath’s vitamin C, lysine, and proline treatment and by more complex mixtures.  (For readers who don’t recognize his name, Rath is an infamous quack who is notorious for causing thousands of deaths in South Africa by substituting vitamins for effective AIDS treatment). Soft tissue calcification in plaque can be reversed with magnesium, high dose vitamin D, strontium, and potassium, with or without adjunctive EDTA chelation therapy (Note: There is no evidence for this, and there is evidence against chelation therapy). Vasoconstriction occurs with deficiency of Mg or vitamin D and impaired NO. NO accounts for cognitive improvement with gingko, vinpocetine, arginine. (Note: there is no evidence of cognitive improvement to account for.)

Ketosis trains the brain to use body fat as a source of energy. Toxins are released when body fat is mobilized. Exercising in and out of ketosis makes the process more efficient.

Mercury is toxic to microtubules. He says amalgam fillings and root canal procedures must be avoided.

The genetic risk factors are due to the fact that apoE modulates mercury toxicity. Mercury toxicity causes Alzheimer’s but, paradoxically, fish consumption is protective. The anti-inflammatory effects of fish oil apparently outweigh the toxic effects of mercury.

He displays a tree of steroid effects, some good and some bad. The menstrual cycle postpones a wide range of anti-aging effects. Other factors are involved: allergies, the leaky gut syndrome, oxidative stress from heavy metals, nutritional deficiencies, chemical exposures, and alcoholism. The great variety of factors means treatment for Alzheimer’s must be individualized. To individualize treatment, patients can be tested in various ways before and after an intervention or a supplement to see what works best for them.

Cognitive testing can be done by an extensive, expensive battery of neuropsychological tests that assess cognitive, motor, balance, proprioception, and sensory functions. But these functions can be tested just as well at home by monitoring performance on:

  • Computer games like Tetris.
  • Concentration game with stopwatch.
  • Finger to nose and other tests.
  • Bridge, chess, juggling, handwriting, crossword puzzles.

Home self-testing allows constant feedback to improve compliance. Does he offer any evidence from controlled studies or peer-reviewed journals that Alzheimer’s patients have actually improved with this plan? Not a scrap.

How to Cure Herpes

In his books, one of which is available free on the CERI website, he also offers a “biologically sustainable solution to chronic viral diseases” via two options:

  • Taking BHT.
  • Using a natural combination of foods, nutrients, hormones, and lifestyle changes.

These cause a metabolic shift that some people will not perceive, but others will notice better sleep, improvement in skin quality, reduced asthma symptoms, decreased sensitivity to cold weather, and fewer migraine headaches. He says that his program has been successfully applied to recurring herpes, shingles, herpes encephalitis, “raging intestinal CMB,” and hepatitis C.

So he says. But there are no clinical studies. Of course, he knows lots of doctors who have prescribed BHT and gotten fantastic results, but they won’t let him release their names because they don’t want to get into trouble for using a nonstandard treatment. (I would think they’d want to publish case reports and case series and become famous!) His extensive writings on herpes amount to (1) complicated speculations based on biochemistry, (2) testimonials, and (3) bashing the medical establishment.


Fowkes is good at explaining complicated relationships in biochemistry, but he does not seem to understand medicine and the errors that occur when you jump from speculation to therapy without clinical trials. I am not impressed. I would love to be proven wrong, because we need effective treatments for these diseases; but I must provisionally conclude that he has not found the cure for Alzheimer’s or herpes. I will cover his ideas about nutrients for better mental performance next week.



Posted by Harriet Hall

Harriet Hall, MD also known as The SkepDoc, is a retired family physician who writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices. She received her BA and MD from the University of Washington, did her internship in the Air Force (the second female ever to do so),  and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency at Eglin Air Force Base. During a long career as an Air Force physician, she held various positions from flight surgeon to DBMS (Director of Base Medical Services) and did everything from delivering babies to taking the controls of a B-52. She retired with the rank of Colonel.  In 2008 she published her memoirs, Women Aren't Supposed to Fly.