Did you know that Alzheimer’s disease begins in the brain up to 20 to 30 years before the first inkling of memory loss? Were you aware that Alzheimer’s is mostly caused by poor diet and lifestyle habits? According to Alzheimer’s specialists, this means there is plenty of time for people to make brain-healthy lifestyle and dietary choices to potentially delay the onset of this dreaded and devastating disease. If you’ve been wondering how to prevent Alzheimer’s, you need to know about the latest research showing how your daily food choices affect your risk.
This year, two separate teams of researchers from prominent medical institutions concluded that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. [1,2] The Mediterranean diet generally emphasizes vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, monounsaturated fats (olive oil), fish, and mild-to-moderate alcohol intake. It limits meat, dairy, saturated fat, and high amounts of alcohol.
After reviewing dozens of studies, researchers from the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College found that not only does the Mediterranean diet has the strongest evidence for decreasing the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but it also improves cognitive function in those who already have the disease. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic also found that if you already have mild cognitive impairment, eating Mediterranean style reduces your risk of transitioning to Alzheimer’s disease.
Another important recent study examining how to prevent Alzheimer’s with diet is the first in the world to investigate how diet in midlife affects the risk of developing dementia much later in life.[4,5] Researchers from Finland rated the diets of 2,000 random Finnish participants and found that those who ate the healthiest diets at the average age of 50 had an almost 90% lower risk for dementia over the next 14 years compared with those whose diets were least healthy.
The most important dietary changes to make to prevent dementia, concluded the researchers, are:
Eat more vegetables, fruits, and berries.
Eat more fish.
Choose unsaturated fats over saturated fats (for example, choose vegetable oil instead of butter and low-fat dairy products over high-fat dairy.)
Reduce consumption of sausage and other high-fat meat products.
Reduce salt consumption.
Reduce sugar consumption.
These are just a few of the recently published, groundbreaking studies showing how to prevent Alzheimer’s and improve brain function in later life by eating a healthy diet now. Other studies also support the Mediterranean diet as well as other dietary patterns that promote increasing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes, while decreasing sweets, salt, and saturated fats.[6-9] Based on the best evidence so far, eating this way is your best bet for reducing your Alzheimer’s risk as you age.
Find more ways to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease here.
Medscape Med News. 2014 Jun4.
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J Alzheimers Dis. Jan 1, 2014; 39(2): 271–282.
Medscape Neur Min. 2014 May14.
Univ Eastern Finland. Dissertations Health Sciences, no. 220.
PLoS One. 2014; 9(4): e94042.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Nov;98(5):1263-71.
Eur J Nutr. 2014 Jul 18. [Epub ahead of print]
Mol Psychiatry. 2014 Jul 29. [Epub ahead of print]