Part One – Nutrition
Currently, there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Advanced age represents the single greatest risk factor with genetics and other unknown factors contributing to our risk of getting Alzheimer’s. Nonetheless, there are several steps everyone can take to increase brain health and possibly delay the onset of neurodegenerative disease.
There are five “pillars” of brain health – each one is important to promote the health of your brain. We’ll explore all five here on the blog. But today, we’ll take a look at nutrition.
Virtually all disease prevention and health promotion includes a healthy diet. So it is with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. People who are overweight have a greater chance of developing dementia. So it pays to eat in moderation and to eat foods that are good for the functioning of your brain. These include:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
By making cell membranes more fluid, omega-3 fatty acids improve communication between the brain cells. Additionally, DHA, one form of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, makes up a large portion of the gray matter of the brain. Here are some foods with particularly high levels of omega-3s.
· Fish, particularly wild salmon, herring and sardines (avoid fish that contain high levels of mercury, including mackerel, tuna, swordfish, shark, tilefish, orange roughy, bluefish and grouper)
· Flax seeds and flaxseed oil
· Walnuts and Almonds (unsalted)
Antioxidants, simply stated, are molecules that stop other molecules from oxidizing. If you’ve ever seen a car eroded by rust or an apple exposed to the air, you’ve seen the effects of oxidation. When it comes to brain health, antioxidants have been shown to be powerful tools in helping to reduce the risk of disease and the loss of mental function. Foods high in antioxidants include:
· Blueberries and other berries
· Small, red beans and other beans
· Green and white tea
· Red wine anddark chocolate
· Supplements such as grapeseed extract, astaxanthin, and resveratrol
This particular food source deserves to be singled out. Turmeric is a spice used frequently in Indian cooking (it’s what gives curry it’s distinct color and flavor). Numerous research studies, including ones conducted by the National Institutes of Health, have shown that turmeric contains a number of natural agents that block the formation of beta-amyloid, the substance responsible for the plaques that slowly obstruct cerebral function in Alzheimer's disease. Turmeric is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, and has been shown to help ailments from arthritis to cancer.
Coconut oil has garnered a lot of buzz recently because of one doctor’s experience with treating her husband with it. The story was aired on 60 Minutes and showed promise. However, unlike turmeric, there is no scientific evidence yet that demonstrates that coconut oil helps prevent or ease the symptoms of dementia. Coconut oil does have numerous health benefits – it rich in antioxidants and bursting with the natural microbial and antibacterial agents. Studies have shown that it can lower cholesterol and help reduce the risk factors associated with diabetes (which dramatically increases one’s likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s).