A Modest Proposal For Dementia Prevention
A modest proposal was in the Journal of Alzheimers Disease, an editorial calling for a longitudinal study of dementia prevention. They agreed that definitive evidence for the effectiveness of dementia prevention methods was lacking so, we need large-scaled randomized trials.
They suggested we start with 10,000 healthy volunteers in their 20s and split them into five groups. Theres evidence, for example, that traumatic brain injury is a risk factor for Alzheimers, because people with head injuries appear more likely to get the disease, but its never been put to the test. So, they say, lets take two thousand people and beat half of them in the head with baseball bats, and the other half well use Styrofoam bats as a control. Afterall, until we have randomized controls, how can physicians recommend patients not get hit in the head?
They go further saying we should probably chain a thousand people to a treadmill for 40 years, and a thousand people to a couch before recommending exercise. A thousand will be forced to do crossword puzzles another thousand forced to watch Jerry Springer reruns, with lots of meat and dairy or not prescribed for another group for the next 40 years, and we can hook a thousand folks on four packs a day just to be sure.
We help our patients to quit smoking despite the fact that theres not a single randomized controlled trial where they held people down and piped smoke into their lungs for a few decades.
Dean & Ayesha Sherzai Md
Dean Sherzai, MD, PhD, is co-director of the Alzheimers Prevention Program at Loma Linda University. Dean trained in Neurology at Georgetown University School of Medicine, and completed fellowships in neurodegenerative diseases and dementia at the National Institutes of Health and UC San Diego. He also holds a PhD in Healthcare Leadership with a focus on community health from Andrews University. Ayesha Sherzai, MD is a neurologist and co-director of the Alzheimers Prevention Program at Loma Linda University, where she leads the Lifestyle Program for the Prevention of Neurological Diseases. She completed a dual training in Preventative Medicine and Neurology at Loma Linda University, and a fellowship in Vascular Neurology and Epidemiology at Columbia University. She is also a trained plant-based culinary artist. Learn more by visiting their site, Team Sherzai.
Are Trendy Vegetarian And Vegan Diets Putting You At Risk For Dementia And Alzheimers
Eating a vegetable-based diets has loads of proven health benefits, including enriching your gut bacteria diversity, loading you up with plant vitamins and minerals, and ensuring you get plenty of fiber. However, if your plant-based diet is strictly vegan or strict vegetarian you may be missing out on this essential dementia-fighting nutrient: Choline.
Choline is only found predominantly in animal fats and is a vital brain nutrient that helps prevent dementia and Alzheimers.
In addition to supporting the brain which is made of primarily fat, by the way choline also supports healthy liver function. Good liver function is necessary to not only keep the body detoxified, but also to keep chronic inflammation in check. A choline deficiency raises the incidence of fatty liver.
Choline is also an essential part of cell membranes in the body and brain cell membranes act as the cellular command center in directing cell function and communication.
Choline is found primarily in meats, fish, dairy, and eggs. Significantly smaller amounts are found in nuts, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables. The liver is able to manufacture a small amount, though not enough to meet the bodys needs.
Experts say that in order to meet the brains needs for sufficient choline, it needs to come from dietary sources rich in choline.
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Fighting Dementia With A Plant
As we age, not only do we start paying more attention to how our bodies respond to what we eat, but we start to think beyond the short term how does what we eat help our bodies, inside and out, over the long term? This is an important question, especially when one considers the risk of degenerative brain diseases, such as dementia. Fortunately, studies are continuing to show how specific diets can help reduce the risk. Here we’ll specifically at the correlation between a plant-based diet and dementia.
Cognitive Impairment Versus Cognitive Decline
Lets take a moment to unpack these terms. Lets say you want to know what your risk is 10 years from now.
- Cognition is a shorthand way of saying thinking, memory, language, attention, visuospatial, and other mental abilities.
- Your risk of cognitive impairment is the risk that 10 years from now, your cognition will be worse than your peers.
- Your risk of cognitive is the risk that 10 years from now, your cognition will be worse than it is now.
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Can You Prevent Alzheimers With A Vegan Diet
Eating capsicum and other plant-based foods could help lower your risk of dementia, according to vegan physician and nutrition expert Dr. Michael Greger.
Dr. Greger advocates for the healing potential of diet and lifestyle. Hes the author of How Not to Die, that analyzes the top fifteen causes of premature death in America, and how lifestyle changes can help prevent and reverse these diseases.
In an article for the Daily Mail, Dr. Greger wrote about the power of food andwhat to eat to beat dementia.Specifically, how a plant-based diet could help prevent Alzheimers disease, the most common form of dementia that affects millions of people around the world.
Do Vegans Get Alzheimers
Recent research suggests that Alzheimers disease, like heart disease and strokes, is linked to the saturated fat, cholesterol, and toxins found in meat and dairy products. Studies have shown that people who eat meat and dairy products have a greater risk of developing Alzheimers disease than do vegetarians.
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Researchers Continue To Seek Answers
The idea of Alzheimers as a metabolic disease that affects the brain, and Alzheimers markers such as glucose metabolism, have led scientists in various directions. Besides the Mediterranean diet and its variations, they are looking at other diets as well as individual foods and nutrients.
For example, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that prompts the production of ketones, chemicals that help brain cells work. Studies show that this diet may affect gut bacteria in distinctive ways in people with and without cognitive impairment, and may help brain cells better use energy, improving their overall function.
Researchers are seeking answers to these questions:
- Which foods are critical to brain health and should be included in diet-based interventions?
- Which groups of people are most likely to benefit from dietary interventions targeting prevention of dementia and cognitive decline?
- Can dietary interventions introduced in midlife lead to better outcomes?
These clinical trials are recruiting participants to test dietary interventions:
To learn more or to find a trial near you, visit the Alzheimers.gov Clinical Trials Finder.
What Foods Prevent Alzheimers
As managing our blood flow is good news for the brain, foods that contribute to lowering blood pressure are on the menu for Alzheimers prevention.
All kinds of beans are key as they have been shown to reduce stroke risk, lower cholesterol and regulate blood glucose.
Berries by far the most delicious way of keeping our brains safe, Harvard research shows they can lower the risk of cognitive decline.
Coffee perhaps the best news to be found here, caffeine can help stimulate protective neurochemicals in the brain such as acetylcholine. As much as this may tempt us to hit the coffee machine all through the day, it is important to avoid caffeine in the afternoons, to ensure we get the all important restorative sleep we need to further stave off cognitive decline.
Quinoa this supergrain contains fibre, zinc, vitamin E, phosphorus and selenium, whilst also being a great source of protein. These are all great for building brain cells!
Other foods on the Alzheimers prevention menu are:
- Leafy green veg
- Dark chocolate
For a more detailed lowdown on how each of these foods can contribute to Alzheimers prevention head here.
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Avoid Highly Cooked Foods And High Fat Foods
Those glycotoxins suppress sirtuin enzyme activity, but what are they and where do they come from? Glycotoxins are infamously known for forming during smoking cigarettes. They also form while cooking foods on high heat, like we often do with meat and fried foods.
Have you ever heard that cooking oil at a high temperature can be carcinogenic? Its true! These glycotoxins are inflammatory and can be damaging to your cells. The biggest source of dietary glycotoxins is found in none other than chicken .
Oh, and did you know that our brains actually shrink as we age? Thats right, we actually lose brain mass and our brains physically shrink. They did a study to see if diet had anything to do with brain shrinkage and found out that what you eat has a significant impact on exactly how much of your brain you lose each year. Not surprisingly, those who ate a plant based diet saw zero brain shrinkage in this 4 year study, as opposed to the group on the Standard American Diet, which is high in fats and refined sugars. As it turns out, diet plays a huge role in brain health and homeostasis.
So the moral of the story? The more low fat and plant-based foods, especially raw plant foods, you can add to your diet, the less likely you are to develop a cognitive disease later in life.
Is There A Cure For Alzheimers
Alzheimers is one of the few diseases, scientists and doctors are still struggling to find a cure for. We dont have a cure for Alzheimers, nor is there a surefire way to stop or even slow its progress. However, most Alzheimers patients rely on medications and food that help with the symptoms.
Medications can temporarily improve memory in some patients. Then there are different treatments for patients to help them with their reasoning and social skills. Dietary supplements are also used as an alternative therapy.
A plant-based diet may not be able to cure the disease, but certain foods have positive effects on memory and other symptoms. For instance, regular intake of nuts like almonds and walnuts can help jog their memory.
Just because its incurable does not mean you cannot do anything against it. By eating a healthy diet and following other important treatments, patients can improve their quality of life and reduce their dependence on others. Its also important to mention that emotional support can also help, even though the patient might not even be able to understand it.
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Exercise For The Body And Brain
Physical exercise has long been recognized as a means to improve longevity and heart health, but it is also beneficial for brain health. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise can help reduce brain atrophy, and it can also improve memory and other cognitive functions. Aim to get at least 120 minutes of aerobic exercise each week.
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Fruit and animal protein fall into the choose wisely category on the pyramid. I grew up with the idea that youre supposed to each as much fruit as possible, Bredesen said. The problem is the fruit were now exposed to has all been bred to have extremely high sugar levels. He recommended focusing on berries, which have natural plant chemicals that may protect the brain.
When it comes to the best animal foods for optimal cognition, wild-caught seafood and pastured eggs are the clear winners, Bredesen writes.
The top of the pyramid lists foods that should only be enjoyed occasionally and in small amounts, like red wine and dark chocolate. Bredesen advises eliminating all grains and conventional dairy from your diet.
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What Are Mediterranean And Mind Diets
The Mediterranean diet consists of simple, plant-based cooking, CNN explains, with most meals focused on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and seeds. Meat can make a rare appearance, but usually only to flavor a dish, the news website writes, although fish is included in the diet.
The MIND diet which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, with DASH standing for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension was developed by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Chicagos Rush University Medical Center.
The diet was developed especially to help boost brain function and reduce dementia. It consists of 10 brain-healthy foods, NHS explains, including green leafy vegetables, berries, beans, and whole grains. Five unhealthy foods are pinpointed: red meat, butter and margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food. While it encourages a mostly plant-based diet, the MIND diet does still include meat, like seafood.
A 2015 study, conducted by Morris, included nearly 1,000 seniors and found that those who followed a MIND diet had a 53 percent lessened chance of developing Alzheimers. People who followed it moderately lowered their risk by 35 percent.
Fish Helps You Think And Keeps Your Thinking Strong
What did the researchers find? Fish was the single most important dietary factor in lowering the risk of cognitive impairment. Vegetables were second best, and all other foods showed smaller, insignificant effects. Moreover, of all the foods evaluated, only fish was associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline. Eating fish lowered the risk of both cognitive impairment and cognitive decline.
Effects On Cognition And Behavior Linking Diet And Cognition Via The Microbiomegutbrain Axis
While the number of interventional studies focusing on cognitive and mental health outcomes after adopting plant-based diets overall is very limited , one underlying mechanism of how plant-based diets may affect mood could involve signaling pathways on the microbiomegutbrain axis. A recent 4-week intervention RCT showed that probiotic administration compared to placebo and no intervention modulated brain activity during emotional decision-making and emotional recognition tasks. In chronic depression it has been proposed that immunoglobulin A and M antibodies are synthesized by the host in response to gut commensals and are linked to depressive symptoms. Whether the identified gram-negative bacteria might also play a role in plant-based diets remains to be explored. A meta-analysis on five studies concluded that probiotics may mediate an alleviating effect on depression symptomatichowever, sample sizes remained rather small and no long-term effects were tested .
A recent study could show that microbial composition influences cerebral amyloidogenesis in a mouse model for Alzheimers disease. Health status of the donor mouse seemingly mattered: fecal transplants from transgenic mice had a larger impact on amyloid beta proliferation in the brain compared to wild-type feces. Translational interpretations to humans should be done with caution if at allyet the results remain elucidative for showing a link between the gut microbiome and brain metabolism.
The Effect Of A Keto Diet On Heart Health
One of the accepted tenets in the battle against Alzheimers is that we need to focus on the health of the heart and vascular system to help prevent Alzheimers, or at least slow its progression. Youve probably heard it before, but its true: What is good for the heart is good for the brain. This what the MIND dieta diet high in fruits and vegetables, fish and poultry, and olive oilis all about. Preliminary studies have shown that adhering to the Mediterranean-based, heart- and brain-healthy diet may lower the risk of Alzheimers . If you opt, instead, for a ketogenic diet to provide ketones, you are thwarting the healthful eating element of the equation and missing out on a lot of nutrients. Relying on a ketogenic diet might provide some short-term benefits, but it would likely mess things up in the long run.
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What Do We Know About Individual Foods
Many foods blueberries, leafy greens, and curcumin , to name a few have been studied for their potential cognitive benefit. These foods were thought to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant or other properties that might help protect the brain. So far, there is no evidence that eating or avoiding a specific food can prevent Alzheimers disease or age-related cognitive decline.
But scientists continue to look for clues. One study, based on older adults reports of their eating habits, found that eating a daily serving of leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale was associated with slower age-related cognitive decline, perhaps due to the neuroprotective effects of certain nutrients. Research has also shown that eating a diet that includes regular fish consumption is associated with higher cognitive function and slower cognitive decline with age. Another recent study, in mice, found that consuming a lot of salt increased levels of the protein tau, found in the brains of people with Alzheimers, and caused cognitive impairment.
Eating For Better Brain Health
If you want to improve your brain health and lower your risk of Alzheimers, the message is clear: Eat mostly or all plants, starting now.
By cutting the animal foods from your diet, youll eliminate the brain-damaging saturated fat and cholesterol these foods are high in. Not to mention that plants give your brain all the healthy nutrients and phytochemicals it needs. A whole-food, plant-based diet provides the necessary macro and micronutrients for your brain to grow, thrive and connect, says Dr. Ayesha Sherzai, neurologist, and co-director of the Alzheimers Prevention Program at Loma Linda, and co-author of The Alzheimers Solution.
Of course, youll be best protected if you eliminate all animal foods from your diet. Even when people eliminate some animal foods but keep others in their diet, whether eggs, dairy, fish, chicken or meat, the saturated fat and cholesterol in those foods are more than enough to have noticeable effects on their cholesterol levels, body weight and other physical measures that affect brain health, Dr. Barnard says.
Yet thats not to say that even small changes can’t make a difference. In one of Dr. Sherzais studies, every incremental step, such as eating a salad instead of a deli sandwich for lunch or adding a couple of servings of fruits to your daily menu, made a monumental difference in study subjects risk of stroke, which also applies to the risk of developing Alzheimers as well.
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