The Link Between Diet and Alzheimer’s
November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and during this time, it’s important to gain a better understanding of the disease in preparation for the road ahead. Many of us at LifeWorx know the devastation of Alzheimer’s firsthand. While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, research is being done to try to better understand the disease, its causes and effects, and develop a cure. Some lifestyle choices may help prevent and manage Alzheimer’s disease and its symptoms.
There has been much research directed at understanding how dietary patterns affect the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Food can play a positive, health-improving role or a destructive and disease-promoting role. As part of our Alzheimer’s Awareness Month series featuring the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF), Yuko Hara, PhD, Director of Aging and Alzheimer’s Prevention, caught us up on the ADDF’s research and discussed connections between diet and Alzheimer’s.
LifeWorx: Can eating a specific food or following a particular diet help prevent or delay dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease? Some studies suggest that what we eat affects the aging brain’s ability to think and remember. What can you tell us about the connections between diet and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease?
Dr. Hara: Nutrition is important for overall health, but it is also very important for brain health. The brain requires a lot of nutrients to function optimally. A healthy diet is associated with better cognitive functions and larger brain volumes based on observational studies. Nutrition/diet is one of the 7 lifestyle interventions evaluated by the WHO for preventing cognitive decline and dementia.
There is no single food that is associated with dementia prevention. It is the overall diet that is important. Characteristics shared by brain-healthy diets include high amounts of vegetables (especially leafy greens), fruits (especially berries), fish, and legumes. The largest amount of evidence exists for the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is inspired by the dietary habits of Greece, Southern Italy, and Spain, and is high in olive oil, omega-3 fatty acids in fish and nuts, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
More research is needed before experts know specific ways to prevent Alzheimer’s, but here are some links to other diets and nutrients that the ADDF has discussed:
- What is the green Mediterranean diet, and can it prevent brain atrophy?
- Exercise with DASH diet improved cognitive functions in older adults
- Can flavanols prevent Alzheimer’s disease
- What are carotenoids and can they protect against dementia?
Stay tuned for our next article about the relationship between sleep and dementia as part of our Alzheimer’s Awareness Month series.
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