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GCA Medalist Paul Alan Cox’s Research on Plant-Based Diets Advances to Phase II Clinical Trials


February 15, 2023

Japanese Islanders Healthy Culture Promotes Longevity, Less Neurodegenerative Diseases

GCA Medalist and Honorary Member Paul Alan Cox, Ph.D., has been studying the health and disease patterns of indigenous people for over four decades. A study of healthy cultures at The Brain Chemistry Labs in Jackson Hole, where Dr. Cox is Executive Director, led his team to the remote village of Ogimi, on the island of Okinawa, Japan. The island population, renowned for their overall longevity, does not suffer from progressive neurodegenerative diseases of Alzheimer’s, ALS, and Parkinson’s. The results of the study have launched a new FDA approved Phase II clinical trial of L-serine for Mild Cognitive Impairment in collaboration with the Houston Methodist Research Institute. 

 Previous Brain Chemistry Lab studies using living cells of non-human primates showed that dietary L-serine slowed development of brain tangles and plaques in the brain associated with neurodegenerative illness. In another human clinical trial, L-serine, taken at 15 grams/twice daily, slowed functional decline in ALS patients. Together, the results suggested that L-serine should be evaluated for therapeutic potential as a neuroprotective agent.

Given both the considerable fame for longevity among the Ogimi villagers, as well as the apparent scarcity of progressive neurodegenerative disease, an ethnobotanical study was designed to determine the most frequently consumed components of the Ogimi diet and to test those components for L-serine content. The most frequently consumed food items, including seaweeds specific to the remote island and tofu, are rich in the dietary amino acid L-serine. In fact, the villagers receive 4 to 5 times  the amount of L-serine in their diet than we do in North America. The Ogimi diet has unique elements based on marine algae. When villagers move to Okinawan capital of Naha, they ask family members to supply them with local seaweeds. 

In August of 2022, the Brain Chemistry Labs began a 125-patient trial of L-serine as a possible treatment for Mild Cognitive Impairment in collaboration with the Houston Methodist Research Institute. 

Dr. Cox presents widely to GCA clubs around the country offering stories of research, progress and hope for positive improvements in the prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. In 2018, he received the GCA’s Eloise Payne Luquer Medal. The citation reads: “With gratitude to a renowned ethnobotanist, consummate scientist, teacher, environmentalist, and activist. His compassion combined with his rigorous scientific methods are improving our world.” 




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