We used to think that we have no control – if we get Alzheimer’s we get it and if our parents had it we will likely have it too. But research into the forms of dementia now shows that we might have more control over whether or not we will develop Alzheimer’s than once thought.
According to Dr. Neal Barnard, clinical researcher and author of ‘Power Foods for the Brain’ not all cases of Alzheimer’s are genetic. It’s without question, that the diet we choose affects cognitive decline in the brain that may lead to Alzheimer’s. If there was ever a compelling reason to cut back on high levels of sugar, cholesterol and the unhealthy fats in junk food, brain health should be it!
We have all read the research about how animal fats and proteins clog the arteries and contribute to diabetes, obesity and heart disease. We are now finding that the same types of negative changes take place in the brain.
Alzheimer’s sometimes called ‘brain diabetes’
Scientists suspect that the dramatic increase in Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes in the last 30 years, could indicate that the causes of both could be similar. In the same way that sugar and insulin production are associated with diabetes they may also be associated with Alzheimer’s – sometimes referred to as ‘brain diabetes’.
To clarify: when we consume high amounts of sugar the glucose levels in the blood increase resulting in the body upping its rate of insulin production. The insulin regulates glucose levels but if we continually take in excess sugar, the body continues to regulate with insulin; eventually resulting in insulin resistance. Researches believe that insulin resistance may contribute to the formation of plaque deposits on the brain thought to be associated with Alzheimer’s.
Right information – the best food choices
Dr. Barnard believes that people should have the information that research provides, to help them make diet decisions that could postpone or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s. While preventing the disease may not be possible in all cases, people may have more control over whether or not they develop it than they think.
A study from Chicago’s Rush Institute for Healthy Aging suggests that eating fish once a week reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 60 percent!
Include foods high in Omega-3 fats including cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, herring and mackerel in your diet.
Antioxidants such as Vitamin A, beta-carotene, Vitamin C and Vitamin E are shown to be low in those with Alzheimer’s. Include antioxidant rich foods like almonds, dried apricots and cooked spinach on your shopping list. The bottom line – eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, aim for at least six portions daily. More super-foods for brain health are beans, chickpeas, blueberries, grapes, leafy greens, and sweet potatoes plus foods fortified with Vitamin B like soymilk.
Avoid saturated fats and trans fats and read the labels on your multivitamins for excess levels of iron, copper and aluminum. Consult with your doctor or healthcare professional as to the right vitamin supplements for you.
Along with a balanced diet, keep your brain healthy by getting physical exercise, plenty of sleep, and lots of intellectual stimulation such as solving puzzles, reading, taking classes and socializing.
If we need one more reason to cut back on sugar, fat and cholesterol in our daily diets, lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s is a good one and there’s rarely if ever, a downside to reducing our consumption of junk-food.
Written by Alice Lucette
Alice Lucette, a blogger from Canada is a writer for SeniorsZen.com – a free resource for finding local retirement homes in Canada.