There is still no definite answer as to what causes Alzheimer’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease and its risk factors are not completely understood — but researchers have found links between compounds in the foods we eat, and a decreased rate of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. In fact, some researchers believe that food and nutrition should be a key focus in the investigation of ways to prevent and treat the disease.
While there is no solid “proof” that maintaining a certain diet will prevent Alzheimer’s, many experts in the field believe that maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and incorporating what is known as “superfoods” may help you avoid type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol – both conditions that have been linked to Alzheimer’s and dementia. But unfortunately, “superfoods” cannot prevent Alzheimer’s from developing in an individual.
Unicity Eldercare would like to share information about the myths and facts surrounding “superfoods” and the ways they may impact those who are at risk for developing Alzheimer’s or related dementias.
What Are Superfoods?
A SUPERFOOD is a nutrient-rich food that has high amounts of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are naturally occurring chemicals that are usually found in the coloring agent of many whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Although there are some superfoods that aren’t brightly colored, most brightly colored fruits and vegetables are considered superfoods. Another great element of superfoods is that while they are low in calorie content, they are high in nutrients. They are also ideal for minimizing the risk of cancer, heart disease, and high cholesterol.
Diet And Alzheimer’s
Scientists are increasingly examining whole food groups to determine which ones contribute to better cognition and which seem to hinder it. Like many diseases, Alzheimer’s begins decades before the onset of clinical symptoms. As the brain changes very slowly, researchers feel that we all should take the steps now to use preventative measures against the development of the disease. Research has proven that you eat has a big impact on your brain. In fact, the right foods, as well as the right combinations of foods, can enhance memory, build new brain cells and perhaps even lessen the occurrence of Alzheimer’s.
If there’s a history of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in your family, you may already take supplements in order to boost memory and protect against age-related memory decline. However, researchers claim that the body doesn’t absorb nutritional supplements quite as effectively as it does natural foods. And when it comes to what you eat, brain-boosting, Alzheimer’s-fighting super foods are recommended as part of your daily dietary intake.
Studies have found that women who ate SuperFood vegetables like spinach, broccoli and Brussels sprouts in their 50’s and 60’s showed less cognitive decline in their 70’s. when compared to women who ate less of these vegetables. In general, a diet rich in Superfoods, as well as incorporating exercise, is the best defense against this disease.
A well-balanced diet that may help prevent or delay the progression of Alzheimer’s should include some of the following:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Spices, Such As Turmeric And Cinnamon
- Chocolate and Coffee
- Coconut & Olive Oil
Scientists have also found that certain eating plans — including the Mediterranean diet, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and a hybrid of the two, dubbed the MIND diet — can help stave off cognitive decline and protect the brain against disease. The MIND diet, developed by researchers at Rush University in Chicago, slashed the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by as much as 53 percent. (MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.) Even those who followed the diet moderately had a 35 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s.
Type Of Foods To Promote Brain Health
Leafy Greens and Other Vegetables
Vegetables, particularly leafy green vegetables, have been shown to have protective effects on the brain. In fact, a study in the Journal of Nutritional Health and Aging stated: “Increased intake of vegetables is associated with a lower risk of dementia and slower rates of cognitive decline in old age.”
- Leafy green and cruciferous vegetables are believed to help control blood sugar and prevent type 2 diabetes. Examples of foods you can work into your daily diet include kale, spinach, radish, cauliflower, broccoli, romaine, and cabbage.
It is important to note, however, that seniors who take blood thinners should avoid greens like kale which is high in vitamin K, as this can potentially cause dangerous drug interactions.
Fish, Flax Seeds And Nuts
According to research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, omega-3 fatty acids, which are commonly found in some fish, grains and nuts, can potentially help to slow the rate of decline in Alzheimer’s. Because foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids are naturally some of the healthiest foods there are, they are beneficial to whole-body health even if the scientific community hasn’t confirmed that they can actually slow Alzheimer’s.
However, studies acknowledge further research is necessary, and according to the Alzheimer’s Association, “there is not yet sufficient evidence to recommend any omega-3 fatty acids to treat Alzheimer’s disease.”
Chocolate, Coffee And Spices
Chocolate and coffee contain caffeine, which studies have shown can improve brain function and memory. A study in the International Journal of Molecular Science indicated that caffeine may “slow Alzheimer’s disease pathology” through inhibiting a neurotransmitter believed to be associated with Alzheimer’s, acetylcholinesterase. Some studies confirm potential benefits, finding that daily caffeine intake is associated with “significantly increased memory capability,” and may “reverse memory impairment.”
Preventing inflammation is another step scientists believe we can all take to avoid Alzheimer’s. Spices that are well known for their anti-inflammatory properties are turmeric and cinnamon and nutmeg, which are also rich in their own unique compounds and may have multiple cognitive benefits. Spices contain so many compounds that they have multiple potential beneficial modes of action, including “anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-hypertensive and gluco-regulatory.” Ways you can work these spices into your daily diet can be as simple as adding cinnamon to your morning coffee, or sprinkling it on your oatmeal. You can use turmeric in smoothies, scrambled eggs and soups.
Dark Skinned Fruits With Antioxidants
Scientists have also been exploring the benefits of antioxidants and there is some evidence that dietary antioxidants may improve cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
- The antioxidants and flavonoids in berries, melon, plums, and oranges have high fiber content and can also help prevent cancer. Another benefit seems to be helping protect cognitive function. Some research shows that women who consume high amounts of berries can delay cognitive aging by as much as 2.5 years.
For example, one study reported on in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that an antioxidant may be able to reduce plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s. Foods high in antioxidants include: berries like raspberries, strawberries, oranges and other dark skinned fruits.
Healthy Oils Like Extra Virgin Olive Oil And Coconut Oil
Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil are said to be beneficial towards fighting the effects of Alzheimer’s.
The medium-chain triglycerides present in coconut oil increase the level of ketone bodies in the blood, which work as alternative brain fuel and improve cognitive performance.
Extra-virgin olive oil contains oleo can, a phenolic compound that improves the production of key proteins and enzymes that break down amyloid plaques. Therefore, extra-virgin olive oil acts as a neuroprotective mechanism against Alzheimer’s disease.
While further research is required, there is strong anecdotal evidence for the benefits of both these oils incorporated into your cooking. As little as one tablespoon of coconut oil per day may help to improve cognitive functioning and memory, and
Other Guidelines For Cognitive Health
Again, while there is no real way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, taking care of your health starting at a younger age is always recommended. Here are some other tips that researchers in the field of dementia suggest that we all strive to maintain:
- Keep your blood pressure low — ideally below 120/80 or lower
- Keep your weight in a healthy range: obesity can be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease
- Total cholesterol below 200 mg/d. and an LDL of 70 mg.
- Consume Alcohol in moderation
- Exercise increases blood flow to the brain; aim to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily
- Watch your sugar; lower your risk factors for diabetes as it has been know to aid in developing Alzheimer’s
- Avoid trans fats
- Take daily Vitamin C and E supplements, which may help lower your risk for Alzheimer’s
- Increase your niacin intake
At Unicity Eldercare, Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care is our specialization. Alzheimer’s being a progressive disease, and it is essential care be supervised and adjusted at each level of Alzheimer’s disease: the early stage, the middle stage and the late stage. Our Geriatric Care Managers make sure to guide you through the appropriate care alternatives during the progression of the disease.
Our staff undergo regular training sessions on Alzheimer’s and other form of dementia related disease; in addition, our Care Managers are dementia experts/ practitioners and they have significant experience dealing with Alzheimer’s clients and their family.
All our caregivers are certified, receive regular dementia training, and are supervised by a Dementia Care Practitioner. Our specialized dementia training program is administered by renowned Dementia Care Practitioners, Geriatric Care Managers, and Registered Nurses with extensive Alzheimer’s & Dementia backgrounds.
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When the time comes to consider home care for your loved one, you may seek help from Unicity’s qualified home care professionals to help ease the burden.
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