Charlie Rose Stumbles — I: the Question of Alzheimer’s Disease

As current television goes, the Charlie Rose show must be rated as among the very best. He often gets intelligent guests, and the discussion is, more often than not, informative. Offhand and just guessing, I would say that I benefit from watching this show about half the time; I cannot think of another TV offering to which I could give a higher score.

All the more reason for me to criticize when he falters. Here is the first of a number of instances that I plan to discuss:

On August 28, the New York Times published an exceptionally informative article about the current state of knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease. It seems that the National Institutes of Health had convened a very high-level “science court” to assess what is known and what isn’t, and that this court had come to a conclusion:

the jury’s verdict was depressing and distressing. So far, nothing has been found to prevent or delay this devastating disease, which ceaselessly kills brain cells, eventually leaving people mute, incontinent, unable to feed themselves, unaware of who they are or who their family and friends are.

“Currently,” the panel wrote, “no evidence of even moderate scientific quality exists to support the association of any modifiable factor (such as nutritional supplements, herbal preparations, dietary factors, prescription or nonprescription drugs, social or economic factors, medical conditions, toxins or environmental exposures) with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Nevertheless, a couple of days after these widely-diffused findings, Charlie had Dr. Eric Kandel, an aged Nobel Prize winner, mentioning quite casually that mental stimulation would help delay or mitigate the onset of Altzheimer’s.

Does Kandel know something that the NIH panel does not ? If so, that should have been mentioned. Of course Charlie is not responsible for the opinions of his guests, but he should have known enough, or his staff should have known enough, to question the venerable Nobelist. And if Charlie was caught by surprise during the interview, he should have brought his viewers up to date on a later date. In the meantime, I am afraid, here is an example of Charlie working against public enlightenment.

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