Is Alzheimers Linked To Diet
According to research, Alzheimers disease is strongly linked to inflammation throughout the body. Consuming an inflammatory dietone thats full of fried foods, refined starches, sugars, saturated or trans fats, and red or processed meatsmay increase your chances of developing the disease as well as many other serious health conditions.
On the flip side, eating certain foods may decrease your risk of cognitive decline, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institute on Aging. One study found that eating a Mediterranean diet consisting of foods like salad dressing, nuts, fish, tomatoes, poultry, cruciferous vegetables, fruits, and dark and green leafy vegetables may decrease a persons risk of developing Alzheimers disease.
Although diet can be protective against Alzheimers, it cannot reverse the disease, says
Kristian Morey, RD, LDN, a clinical dietitian with the Nutrition and Diabetes Education program at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
However, a recent Temple University School of Medicine study of mice showed that switching to a healthier diet reversed the cognitive impairment that was associated with their previous diet. While this cannot be considered a therapy or cure, it may demonstrate that dietary changes can improve some cognitive impairment, Morey says.
Ingredients Of The Mind Diet
The MIND diet focuses on plant-based foods linked to dementia prevention. It encourages eating from 10 healthy food groups:
- Leafy green vegetables, at least 6 servings/week
- Other vegetables, at least 1 serving/day
- Berries, at least 2 servings/week
- Whole grains, at least 3 servings/day
- Fish, 1 serving/week
- Olive oil
The MIND diet limits servings of red meat, sweets, cheese, butter/margarine and fast/fried food.
*Be careful about how much alcohol you drink. How the body handles alcohol can change with age. Learn more about alcohol and older adults.
Some, but not all, observational studies those in which individuals are observed or certain outcomes are measured, without treatment have shown that the Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk for dementia. These studies compared cognitively normal people who ate a Mediterranean diet with those who ate a Western-style diet, which contains more red meat, saturated fats and sugar.
Evidence supporting the MIND diet comes from observational studies of more than 900 dementia-free older adults, which found that closely following the MIND diet was associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimers disease and a slower rate of cognitive decline.
Foods To Avoid If You Have Alzheimers
Fats and alcohol are the main things you should avoid when trying to minimize your Alzheimers risk however, this isnt quite cut-and-dry. With fats, the current research suggests that relative levels of different types of fatrather than actual intake amounts that determine your risk. Keeping your mono or unsaturated fat intake higher than saturated has been shown to improve cognitive function, while the reverse results in worse function. With this in mind, try to limit or eliminate the following in your diet:
- Butter or margarine
- Red meat
- Fried/fast food
With alcohol, two or fewer glasses per day seem to have a protective effect, but more raises your risk instead. It is advisable then that you either keep your drinking to a minimum, or abstain entirely.
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Diet May Help Prevent Alzheimers
MIND diet rich in vegetables, berries, whole grains, nuts
Newly published research suggests that a specific diet called the MIND diet may reduce the incidence of brain disease that increases a persons risk in developing Alzheimers disease.
The recent study shows that the MIND diet lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 53 percent in participants who adhered to the diet rigorously, and by about 35 percent in those who followed it moderately well according to a paper published online on March 19 in the journal Alzheimers & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimers Association.
Developed by Martha Clare Morris, PhD, a Rush nutritional epidemiologist and her colleagues, the MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH diets. Both diets have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions, like hypertension, heart attack and stroke. Some researchers have found that the two older diets provide protection against dementia as well.
The MIND diet is also easier to follow than, say, the Mediterranean diet, which calls for daily consumption of fish and three to four daily servings of each of fruits and vegetables, Morris said.
The Mind Diet: 10 Foods That Fight Alzheimer’s
Doctors have been saying for years that what you eat can affect the health of your heart. Now there’s growing evidence that the same is true for your brain.
A new study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago shows a diet plan they developed — appropriately called the MIND diet — may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 53 percent.
Even those who didn’t stick to the diet perfectly but followed it “moderately well” reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s by about a third.
Diet appears to be just one of “many factors that play into who gets the disease,” said nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, PhD, the lead author of the MIND diet study. Genetics and other factors like smoking, exercise and education also play a role. But the MIND diet helped slow the rate of cognitive decline and protect against Alzheimer’s regardless of other risk factors.
The study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, looked at more than 900 people between the ages of 58 and 98 who filled out food questionnaires and underwent repeated neurological testing. It found participants whose diets most closely followed the MIND recommendations had a level of cognitive function the equivalent of a person 7.5 years younger.
The MIND diet breaks its recommendations down into 10 “brain healthy food groups” a person should eat and five “unhealthy food groups” to avoid.
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Causes Of Mental Decline
You might say that prescription drugs are one of the major contributors to accelerated brain aging. Chief amongst these are the statin drugs for high cholesterol, fluroquinolone antibiotics, prescription tranquilizers, antidepressants, and electroconvulsive shock therapy. Concussions will do the same. Statin drugs, for example, deplete the brain of the important antioxidant CoQ10 as well as numerous steroid hormones, including vitamin D. The longer you use statin drugs, the greater will be your cognitive decline. A few years ago I reported on the dangers of these overprescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs in this magazine
Another major issue is the growing problem of mercury toxicity from dental fillings, industrial pollution, and fish of all types. Mercury and other toxic heavy metals play an increasingly large role in damaging the brain. To rid the body of these toxins, consider using the far infrared sauna , cilantro , chlorella , bentonite clay , and other detoxifying strategies regularly.
Commonly prescribed drugs for Alzheimers or dementia rarely benefit an aging brain and serve primarily to keep agitated patients with dementia quiet or muzzled. The good news is that evidence supports the use of many nutrient supplements that can enhance brain function and prevent brain tragedies in later life.
Here are my top 10 favorites based on the most recent studies and my clinical experience:
Eat Low Mercury Fish Two Times A Week
Our brain depends on certain nutrients to keep it healthy and functioning. DHA , an omega-3 fatty acid predominantly found in marine sources like fish, is one such nutrient that plays a key role in brain health, and may even help reduce Alzheimer’s Disease development risk.
According to the results of a systematic review that analyzed approximately 27,000 people, regular consumption of fish was associated with a 20% reduced risk for developing Alzheimer’s type dementia. Specifically, researchers found that adding a 3.5 ounce serving of fish to a diet every week was associated with an additional 12% reduction in risk for Alzheimer’s type dementia.
Many varieties of fish also contain selenium and choline, two key nutrients that play a role in Alzheimer’s Disease pathology.
Sticking to lower mercury varieties of fish is recommended, as too much exposure to this metal may negatively contribute to cognitive concerns. Salmon, skipjack tuna, and Alaskan pollock are all lower mercury fish choices that contain DHA omegas.
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Additional Resources For Dementia And Eating Issues
Read and download the NHS helpful Dementia Care Guide Support with eating and drinking . This guide talks about the common problems those living with dementia can have at meal time, and offers some tips to resolve them.
Another great tool that carers can use is The DMAT . The DMAT enables carers to assess, select interventions and generate a person centred care plan to support mealtime eating abilities and meal behaviours in people with advancing dementia. You can learn more about the DMAT and its benefits on their website.
What Is An Anti
Theres no single anti-inflammatory diet. Many well-researched traditional eating patterns are considered anti-inflammatory such as the Mediterranean, Nordic and Okinawan diets.
The DASH diet is also anti-inflammatory, as are flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets based on whole foods.
An anti-inflammatory diet combines a variety of whole, largely plant-based foods which provide vitamins, minerals, gut-friendly fibre, healthy fats, antioxidants and phytochemicals, all of which work together to prevent or lessen inflammation.
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Foods That May Increase The Risk Of Alzheimers
First, we know that an unhealthy diet can promote cognitive decline along with other health problems. Scientists have looked at what they call the Western diet, a pattern rich in convenient, processed foods and rich in animal products. The typical western diet is high in total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and processed grains, large amounts of added sugar. This eating pattern has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. A high intake of saturated and trans fats increase the bodys levels of oxidative stress and inflammatory response, harmful processes which contribute to the development of dementia. The take-away message? Cut down on total caloric intake, saturated and trans fats, and sugar.
Can Alzheimers Be Prevented
There is no known cure for Alzheimers, although medication can slow and suppress its symptoms.
What we can do is use lifestyle and environment to try and reduce our risk, and research suggests that diet is the most important environmental factor when it comes to caring for our brains.
Drs Dean and Ayesha Sherzai are key neurologists in the fight against Alzheimers. Their wonderful book, The Alzheimers Solution, explains how the disease can be prevented in up to 90 percent of people, by implementing five lifestyle interventions: exercise regularly, improve sleep, challenge and engage the brain, reduce stress and most importantly eat better.
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Low To Moderate Amounts Of Alcohol
This is a somewhat controversial one since there are some risks associated with drinking alcohol, but multiple research studies demonstrated a cognitive benefit for those who drank light to moderate amounts of alcohol. Some of this may be related to the resveratrol in red wine, but other research found this benefit in other kinds of alcohol as well.
Keep in mind that there are some people who should never drink alcohol, such as alcoholics, those with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, and those for whom it will interact with their medications.
Practical Tips To Help Someone With Dementia To Eat More
People living with Alzheimers or dementia often eat less than they used to. This can be due to medical problems associated with chewing, swallowing or digesting food.
Sometimes people just lose interest in food. This can happen for a long list of reasons including loss of taste, the ability to smell, memory loss, and thinking they have already eaten. Certain medications can also affect appetite.
The ability and want to eat tends to get worse as the disease progresses and ensuring someone living with dementia eats a nutritious meal, or eats enough, can become a real practical and emotional issue for the carer. We have compiled a list here of 8 practical tips for helping someone with dementia to eat more.
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Alzheimers Diet: 16 Foods To Fight Dementia + What To Avoid
The best Alzheimers diet is Dr. Dale Bredesens KetoFLEX 12/3 diet. This slightly-flexible ketogenic diet can lower your risk of developing Alzheimers disease or dementia, especially in the earliest stages of cognitive decline.
This revolutionary diet also encourages 12-hour fasting periods so the body has more time to repair cell damage. Make sure to not eat within 3 hours of going to bed either.
By eating foods such as green leafy vegetables, fish, nuts, and even an occasional glass of red wine, you can reduce your chances of developing Alzheimers.
Try Some Of These Best Foods For Dementia Patients To Eat
There are lots of fads and daily news on the latest food to help slow down dementia. Advice from the Alzheimers Society and other expert dementia organisations is clear: there are foods that can help reduce some of the symptoms, but mostly its common sense. A healthy balanced diet with treats in moderation of course. Some suggestions include:
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What Do We Know About Diet And Prevention Of Alzheimer’s Disease
Can eating a specific food or following a particular diet help prevent or delay dementia caused by Alzheimers disease? Many studies suggest that what we eat affects the aging brains ability to think and remember. These findings have led to research on general eating patterns and whether they might make a difference.
The Mediterranean diet, the related MIND diet , and other healthy eating patterns have been associated with cognitive benefits in studies, though the evidence is not as strong as it is for other interventions like physical activity, blood pressure and cognitive training. Currently, researchers are more rigorously testing these diets to see if they can prevent or delay Alzheimers disease or age-related cognitive decline.
What About Vitamins And Supplements
Observational studies and clinical trials have looked at many over-the-counter vitamins and dietary supplements, including vitamins B and E and gingko biloba, to prevent Alzheimers disease or cognitive decline. The idea is that these dietary add-ons might attack oxidative damage or inflammation, protect nerve cells, or influence other biological processes involved in Alzheimers.
Despite early findings of possible benefits for brain health, no vitamin or supplement has been proven to work in people. Overall, evidence is weak as many studies were too small or too short to be conclusive.
Take DHA for example. Studies in mice showed that this omega-3 fatty acid, found in salmon and certain other fish, reduced beta-amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimers. However, clinical trials in humans have had mixed results. In a study of 485 older adults with age-related cognitive decline, those who took a DHA supplement daily for 24 weeks showed improved learning and memory, compared to those who took a placebo. Another study of 4,000 older adults conducted primarily to study eye disease concluded that taking omega-3 supplements, alone or with other supplements, did not slow cognitive decline.
For more information, visit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
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How To Get Started On An Anti
Ease into an anti-inflammatory eating pattern by gradually modifying your meals and snacks. That way, these changes can become a lifestyle change.
Make vegetables the focus of your meals fill half your plate with cooked and/or raw vegetables.
Consider how often you eat red meat aim for no more than twice a week.
To reduce red meat intake, add fish to your menu twice a week. Eat at least one plant-based meal each week featuring chickpeas, lentils or tofu, for example, and build from there.
Swap whole grains for refined grains. Instead of the usual white rice, try farro, bulgur or red rice. Replace white bread and crackers with products made with 100-per-cent whole grains.
Snack on nuts. Instead of crackers and cheese or granola bars, snack on a small handful or mixed nuts, a pear with walnuts or a sliced apple with almond butter.
Cook with olive oil instead of butter. Olive oil has a relatively high smoke point, the temperature it starts to burn and smoke, making it suitable for stovetop cooking and oven roasting .
Save sugary desserts for special occasions. Satisfy sweet cravings with fresh fruit, dates or figs.
If youre looking for an anti-inflammatory diet plan to follow, youll find plenty guidance online for the Mediterranean, DASH and MIND diets.
Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based private practice dietitian, is director of food and nutrition at Medcan. Follow her on Twitter
Diet And Alzheimers Disease
James M. Ellison, MD, MPH
Swank Center for Memory Care and Geriatric Consultation, ChristianaCare
- Expert Advice
Learn helpful information on the role of diet and brain health, based on the latest research.
Food serves so many important purposes in our lives. Food-related activities bring us together with the people who are important in our lives. Food gives us pleasure, stimulation, and comfort. The behavioral disorders related to food create or sustain terrible distress. Food deficiency or deprivation is a source of great suffering. In so many ways, food can make life better or worse. It can make health better or worse, too.
Much research has been directed at understanding how dietary patterns affect the risk for Alzheimers disease and other dementias, and here too food can play a positive, health-improving roleor a destructive and disease-promoting role. The World Health Organization recently concluded that many cases of cognitive decline could be delayed or prevented through adopting a healthier lifestyle.1 Physical activity, diet, smoking cessation, and attention to chronic medical diseases are all important contributors to healthier cognitive aging. So, what do we know about food and Alzheimers disease? 2,3
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