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Does Diet Affect Alzheimer’s

Cognitive Impairment Versus Cognitive Decline

The anti-Alzheimerâs diet, with Dr. Dale Bredesen

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.

What Is The Mind Diet Plan And How Does It Incorporate The Dash And Mediterranean Diets

MIND is a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet, and research suggests it may reduce the risk of developing dementia or slow the decline in brain health, says Becky Kerkenbush, RD, a clinical dietitian with Watertown Regional Medical Center in Wisconsin.

In a study from 2015, the nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, ScD, and her colleagues at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago referenced past studies on the dietary connection between food and cognitive decline, and then borrowed concepts from the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet two plant-based diets to develop a meal plan with brain-boosting benefits. Thus the MIND diet was born.

Although there are similarities among all three diets, the MIND diet is the only one that encourages the consumption of foods that have been found to promote cognitive health.

Can You Reduce Your Dementia Risk

The short answer is probably that diet may well play a part. Evidence is growing that a varied diet rich in plants will support a varied gut microbiome. And a varied gut microbiome helps to reduce the inflammation implicated in dementia.

Poor diet harms microbes, which harms the immune system with these knock-on effects of cognitive decline. In dementia, inflammatory aging is the current theory. Its partly triggered by the immune system which involves the microbes and diet.

Prof. Tim Spector

So until randomized control trials can prove how diet influences dementia, it is probably best to eat a diet that reduces the risk of heart disease and supports your microbiome, combining it with regular exercise.

The jury is still out on moderate alcohol consumption, but there is clear evidence that too much alcohol increases the risk of many health conditions, including dementia.

Dr. Weber concluded: While we continue to learn more about lifestyle factors that have the greatest impact on our overall risk, there are things we can do today that may decrease our risk of cognitive decline as we age. Eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, and staying cognitively engaged are just a few.

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Alzheimers Vs Dementia: Whats The Difference

Both Alzheimers disease and dementia involve cognitive decline, but not all dementia patients have Alzheimers. Dementia is one of the main symptoms of Alzheimers, and Alzheimers is the most common type of dementia.

Alzheimers disease is caused by misshapen protein structures in the brain . Over time, the malformations kill the brain cells theyre in, limiting cognitive function.

Because Alzheimers is defined by these microscopic changes in the brain, doctors cant say for certain whether a person has Alzheimers without performing an autopsy.

The early symptoms of Alzheimers disease include:

When a patient starts to develop noticeable symptoms, Alzheimers medications may help. However, making diet and lifestyle changes seems to be just as effective, if not more so.

Does An Unhealthy Diet Put You At Risk Of Alzheimers Disease

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A diet high in sugar and carbohydrates can cause the body to produce contaminants that may lead to swelling and an abundance of plaques in the brain. This may cause an impairment in cognitive function and increase your risk of developing Alzheimers disease. The gene associated with late-onset Alzheimers is called ApoE4 and it is responsible for regulating cholesterol in the brain and the transportation of fat.

A variant of this gene is also associated with a higher rate of heart disease and cognitive decline. More women are affected by Alzheimers when compared to men, and if women have one copy of this gene, their chances of obtaining Alzheimers may increase.

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What Is The Best Alzheimers Diet

Agrowing body of evidence suggests that a Mediterranean diet may protect against cognitive decline and dementia. To date, several studies have shown that individual nutrient characteristics of the Mediterranean diet reduce oxidative stress biomarkers and positively affect cognition, says Reyzan Shali, MD, a primary care physician board-certified in internal medicine practicing in San Diego, California.

A typical aging brain displays signs of cell atrophy, which are most likely related to three main mechanisms: a decrease in cerebral blood flow and oxygen supply, mitochondrial dysfunction , and increased inflammation, Dr. Shali explains. The Mediterranean diet works on all three of these mechanisms. To prevent cell atrophy in your brain, consider including Mediterranean diet foods into your routine, she says.

The Mediterranean diet limits red meat, eggs, and sugar, and focuses on the following:

The MIND Diet, a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, also seems to be beneficial, says Morey. Like the Mediterranean diet, the MIND diet focuses on plant-based foods linked to dementia prevention and incorporates elements of the DASH diet . The DASH diet helps to lower high blood pressure, which is a known risk factor for Alzheimers disease. The MIND diet encourages eating recommended servings of these 10 healthy food groups each week:

The Diet And Memory Connection

As evidence of this effect are the results of a study conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, published online May 17 in the journal Annals of Neurology. Women in the study who ate the most saturated fats from foods such as red meat and butter performed worse on tests of thinking and memory than women who ate the lowest amounts of these fats.

The exact reason for the connection between diets high in saturated and trans fats and poorer memory isn’t entirely clear, but the relationship may be mediated by a gene called apolipoprotein E, or APOE. This gene is associated with the amount of cholesterol in your blood, and people with a variation of this gene, called APOE e4 are at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease. “About 65% of individuals who wind up with dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease in their 60s and 70s have that gene,” says Dr. Gad Marshall, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.

How does the APOE e4 gene contribute to dementia? Researchers aren’t exactly sure, but they have discovered that people with this genetic variation have a greater number of sticky protein clumps, called beta-amyloid plaques, in the brain. These plaque deposits, which are associated with the destruction of brain cells, are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

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The Inflammatory Theory Of The Microbiota

There are various factors that affect the acquisition and maturation of the microbiota, some of them are the type of delivery , antibiotics, breastfeeding, diet or environmental exposure to microbes . Diet is recognized as one of the factors with the most influence on the intestinal microbiota. There is evidence that nutritional patterns with high or low amounts of fiber and diets based on plants or animals rapidly and reproducibly modify the intestinal microbial composition .

Recent studies have shown that certain pathologies such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastrointestinal infections, allergic diseases, diabetes and metabolic syndrome are related to an altered microbiota and are associated with the state mood, behavior, and cognition . At present, the gut microbiota is of great interest in relation to various neurodegenerative diseases , including AD as well as prion diseases . It has been observed that both, the production of beta-amyloid peptide in AD and neuroinflammation have been related to the intestinal microbiota, also microbiome has been described to have a role in the activation of the microglia in prion diseases .

Neuroinflammation and oxidative stress are factors that have been affected by the intestinal microbiota . The gut microbiota and the central nervous system are connected through multiple bidirectional pathways involving neuronal, endocrine, and immune signaling .

The Mediterranean And Mind Diets And Alzheimers

Dementia is preventable through lifestyle. Start now. | Max Lugavere | TEDxVeniceBeach

One diet that shows some promising evidence is the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, and other seafood unsaturated fats such as olive oils and low amounts of red meat, eggs, and sweets. A variation of this, called MIND incorporates the DASH diet, which has been shown to lower high blood pressure, a risk factor for Alzheimers disease.

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Watch For Weight Loss

People with Alzheimerâs may feel less hungry or thirsty, have problems chewing or swallowing, have trouble using utensils or feeding themselves, or make bad food choices. This raises the chance that they wonât eat enough and will lose too much weight.

To help your loved one keep up their weight and get the right nutrients:

  • Offer smaller meals or snacks more often. Eating five or six times a day may be easier than getting the same amount of food in three meals.
  • Give them a daily multivitamin.
  • Help them focus on the more nutritious, higher-calorie foods in the meal first.
  • Prepare things that are easy to eat. Good options are bite-sized finger foods, like chicken nuggets, tuna sandwiches, orange slices, and steamed broccoli.
  • Make meals enjoyable. If lunch or dinner is a social event, they may look forward to it and eat better.
  • Trouble chewing or swallowing could be a choking risk, so talk to their doctor if they have a hard time. The doctor can recommend a special diet or foods that are easier to eat.
  • Use utensils or dishes that are easier to handle. A spoon and bowl may be better than aforkand plate.
  • Exercise can boost appetite. Encourage your loved one to take walks, garden, or do simple chores to stay active.
  • Not feeling hungry and weight changes can also be signs of depression. Talk to their doctor if you think this might be a problem.

Show Sources

Alzheimer’s Disease Education & Referral Center: “Caregiver Guide.”

Reducing Your Alzheimers Risk: What To Eat

While there are some foods you should avoid to lower your Alzheimers risk, there are a ton that you should be enjoying that can actually help lower your risk.

Following the Mediterranean diet is one of the best things you can do for your brain. Emphasizing fresh fruits and veggies, wild-caught seafood, poultry, nuts, olive oil and dairy in moderation with red meat enjoyed on special occasions or just once a week the Mediterranean has been touted as one of the best ways to decrease your chances of developing Alzheimers through nutrition.

Because the Mediterranean diet is heavy on brain foods like avocados, leafy greens and olive oil, it makes sense that following the diet would keep the brain in tip-top shape. In fact, all of myfive best healthy fats for your bodyare part of the Mediterranean diet, including omega-3 fatty acids. These are found in fish like wild-caught salmon and play a huge role in brain health, slowing down the aging process.

Final Thoughts on Foods that Raise Alzheimers Risk

Researchers are linking a diet rich in red meat, added sugars and refined carbohydrates to a higher risk of Alzheimers disease.

So while there might not be a quick fix to preventing Alzheimers disease, you can raise or reduce your risk of developing the disease at each meal. Now that you know certain foods raise your Alzheimers risk, which will you choose?

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Foods That Induce Memory Loss

Unfortunately, the foods that hamper memory are common staples in the American diet. White breads, pasta, processed meats and cheeses, all of these have been linked to Alzheimers disease. Some experts have even found that whole grain breads are as bad as white breads because they spike blood sugar, which causes inflammation.

Heres a list of foods linked to increased rates of Alzheimers disease:

  • Processed cheeses, including American cheese, mozzarella sticks, Cheez Whiz and Laughing Cow. These foods build up proteins in the body that have been associated with Alzheimers.
  • Processed meats, such as bacon, smoked turkey from the deli counter and ham. Smoked meats like these contain nitrosamines, which cause the liver to produce fats that are toxic to the brain.
  • Beer. Most beers contain nitrites, which have been linked to Alzheimers.
  • White foods, including pasta, cakes, white sugar, white rice and white bread. Consuming these causes a spike in insulin production and sends toxins to the brain.
  • Microwave popcorn contains diacetyl, a chemical that may increase amyloid plaques in the brain. Research has linked a buildup of amyloid plaques to Alzheimers disease.

Can Diet Prevent Or Slow Down Dementia

The Energy

We hear so much from the media about what we should or should not eat. One day blueberries are the new so-called superfood that will reduce our risk of developing dementia, the next it is the humble plum.

But what information can we rely on to be accurate? Can the food we eat really reduce our risk of developing dementia? If a person has dementia, can their diet or use of supplements influence how they experience dementia or its progression?

Knowing what and what not to eat is so confusing, the messages seem to change daily!

Person with dementia

The brain requires a regular supply of nutrients in our diet to function and remain healthy. There is growing recognition that what we eat affects the way our brains work and our mental health, as well as our physical health.

Traditionally research undertaken to investigate the connection between diet, cognitive function and risk of dementia has primarily focused on the impact of individual nutrients on brain health. Those nutrients commonly researched include: vitamins B6, B12, C, E and folic acid, as well as omega 3 essential fatty acids. The outcome of such research has been inconclusive and thus guidelines to advise on specific nutrient intakes have not been developed. In this feature well explore some of the ongoing research on this topic.

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Listen To This Article

Walnuts can improve cognitive function. Blueberries can boost memory. Fish oil supplements can lower your risk of Alzheimers disease.

You may have noticed these buzzy brain food claims scattered across online health articles and social media feeds. But can certain foods or diets really stave off or prevent dementia?

Experts say that while nutrition studies are notoriously challenging to carry out, there is a compelling and ever-growing body of research that does suggest that some foods and diets may offer real benefits to an aging brain. So we spoke with two dozen researchers and pored over the research to better understand the links between diet and dementia.

Mediterranean Diet And Dementia Mediterranean Diet And Dementia

Evidence shows that a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and cereals, and low in red meat and sugar could help reduce dementia risks.

The best way to reduce your risk of dementia is to adapt various aspects of your lifestyle, including eating certain foods, taking regular exercise, not smoking, and maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

There is some evidence that eating a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce the risk of developing problems with memory and thinking, and getting some forms of dementia.

Mediterranean diets are traditionally high in fruits, vegetables, legumes and cereals, with moderate consumption of oily fish and dairy, and low in meat, sugar and saturated fat. Most fat in this type of diet comes from olive oil, and alcohol is consumed in moderation with meals. Research in the 1960s showed that men from Mediterranean regions who adhered to traditional diets had lower rates of heart attacks. This prompted continual investigation into the potential health benefits of the diet.

Investigations have shown that this kind of diet is associated with lower levels of stroke, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and death from any cause. They have also shown that sticking to the diet more strictly might be associated with slower rates of decline in memory and thinking.

Reduce your risk of dementiaReduce your risk of dementia .

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Cook Smarter Even When Foods Raise Alzheimers Risk

Its important to note that all foods contain some level of AGEs. Meats, cheeses and animal fats tend to have the most by far, though. And because AGE production actually increases with heat, the way you cook your meat matters when it comes to avoiding AGEs and how foods raise your Alzheimers risk.

Grilling and frying meats speeds up AGE production much more than other methods of cooking. For example, a serving of raw chicken has an AGE level of 800 fried chicken has a level of 8,000.

Skip the deep fryer and high-heat grill and opt instead for stewing, poaching, braising or using a grill pan on the stove.

On the supplement side of things, researchers are even starting to find that olive leaf benefits include inhibiting the formation of AGEs.

How Important Are Berries And Vegetables For Our Brain

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A plant-based diet that contains plenty of berries and vegetables might be healthy because it contains great amounts of vitamins and polyphenols. Preclinical studies indicate that a polyphenol called quercetin protects cells against the pathogenetic changes of Alzheimer’s disease and has also been shown to enhance memory. A human study showed no cognitive benefits from eating quercetin for 12 weeks. However, eating 18 g of onion extract for 4 weeks did enhance memory with people suffering from early Alzheimer’s disease. Preclinical studies with Alzheimer’s-diseased animal models show that polyphenols from fruits and vegetables affect hyperphosphorylation of tau proteins and aggregation of beta-amyloid. Clinical evidence shows a lack of this molecular mechanism in humans.

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