Alzheimer’s Disease is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and is the most prevalent form of dementia among older adults.1 It robs those affected of their best and most lovable qualities, while impacting everyday functions. While new studies have shown the link between the "standard American diet" and increasing incidences of Alzheimer’s Disease, there is also ample scientific evidence demonstrating the power that food has as a type of functional medicine to help prevent and mitigate symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.2 Therefore, what you do and don’t eat absolutely matters in the fight against Alzheimer’s!
Foods to incorporate:
The Mediterranean Diet: Among the many (many, many, many) other benefits of the Mediterranean Diet (I’m looking at you cardiovascular health!), studies have shown that following a Mediterranean Diet can help prevent the build-up of dangerous neural plaques! These plaques essentially get in the way and disrupt cellular communication within the brain.
Besides being yummy and full of fresh fruits and veggies, the Mediterranean Diet is full of antioxidants, which act as a fighting force against free radicals, which are amply supplied by the standard American diet. The Mediterranean Diet includes fresh fruits and veggies that are raw or lightly cooked in healthy oils that have high smoke points, healthy fats, nuts, beans, fish, grass-fed dairy, lots and lots of water (as well as a glass of red wine), and healthy amounts of social interaction!
Foods to avoid:
SUGAR: Sugar and processed food items raise blood glucose, and therefore insulin, levels in dramatic spikes. This usually will eventually lead to insulin resistance, which has been shown to have damaging effects on the blood vessels within the brain. In fact, Alzheimer’s is more and more becoming known as “type 3 diabetes”.
Non-organic fruits and vegetables: These items tend to contain neuro-toxic agricultural chemicals (pesticides). Ingestion of these pesticides has been heavily correlated with high levels being found in the brain, which has led to increased production of the toxic plaque proteins that disrupt cellular communication. Just another reason why it’s so important to eat organic and support your local, organic growers!
Red Meat: While meat isn’t inherently bad, in this particular disease profile, high consumption levels, as well as low-quality meats, have been linked to damaging iron build-up on the brain, which increases gray-matter degeneration.
While there is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, the evidence supporting the role of food as a functional treatment method cannot be denied. To quote Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.”
1. Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet. Accessed September 17, 2019.
2. Grant WB. Using Multicountry Ecological and Observational Studies to Determine Dietary Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease. J Am Coll Nutr. 2016;35(5):476-489. doi:10.1080/07315724.2016.1161566