What Do We Know About Diet and Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease?
Changes in the brain can occur years before the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease occur. It also should be noted that the focus of diet factors on diseases should be the prevention or delay of the disease in question and not a “cure.” Unlike other risk factors for Alzheimer’s that we cannot change such as age and genetics, the current thought is that with lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise and cognitive training, many chronic diseases can possibly be avoided adding health to our lifespans.
How could our diet affect our brains?
“It’s possible that certain diet patterns affects biological mechanisms, such as oxidative stress and inflammation that underlie many chronic diseases. Or perhaps diet works indirectly by affecting other disease risks, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. A new avenue of research focuses on the relationship between gut microbes in the digestive system and aging-related processes that lead to Alzheimer’s.”
Several diet patterns show some promise. One is the Mediterranean Diet or its variations, the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) or the DASH diet. (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. All are based on leafy green vegetables and colorful vegetables, berries, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, wine (1 glass a day), whole grains and preferably olive oil.
“For example, two recent studies suggest that, as part of the Mediterranean diet, eating fish may be the strongest factor influencing higher cognitive function and slower cognitive decline. In contrast, the typical Western diet increases cardiovascular disease risk, possibly contributing to faster brain aging.”
The problem with the research is that most is called observational (subject to recall from the participants). To rectify this, several organizations like National Institute of Aging are conducting clinical trials (considered the gold standard of medical proof to shed more light on any cause and effect.
What About Supplements?
Clinical trials in humans have had mixed results, some with positive effects, others with negative results. These types of studies often attempt to measure the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. However, at this time:
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.
Note: I personally conducted animal research using high or low omega-3 or omega-6 diets on breast cancer incidence. The study was repeated two times and no significant differences in breast cancer incidence, tumor weight or immune system parameters were found between the study groups. (SJF)
Note: A deficiency in vitamin B12 or folate due to aging or strictly following a vegan diet may cause memory problems that are reversible with proper treatment. Please consult with your physician.
Reference: National Institute on Aging
This content is partly provided by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA) scientists and other experts review this content, so it is accurate and up to date. This content was reviewed November 27, 2019.