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Can Diet Help Alzheimers?

Jan 29, 2015 9:00:00 AM

Proper diet is important for both body and brain health, especially for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show that poor diet can contribute to behavior problems, weight loss or gain, and health complications in Alzheimer’s patients. Recent studies show that nutrients present in Greek or Mediterranean based diets are better for brain health and may be useful in preventing Alzheimer’s or mitigating symptoms. A Mediterranean diet has also been found to reduce the risk of health issues such as diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.


The Role of Carbohydrates & Fats

Research is increasingly showing a link between brain health and a diet that is low in non-fiber carbohydrates and high in certain fats. Most Mediterranean based meals combine fresh vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and olive oil, which fit this profile. Many Americans eat a diet that is high in carbohydrates, which has been shown to increase the body’s resistance to insulin. In addition to causing blood sugar levels to rise, issues with insulin absorption can disrupt brain signaling, which has been shown to contribute to development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin E & Brain Cells

Alzheimer’s disease causes inflammatory and oxidative processes to be triggered within the brain that can disrupt the functioning of cells and signaling processes within the brain and throughout the body. Free radicals that are produced by the brain or introduced from outside sources can contribute to cell damage and oxidative stress. The antioxidant vitamin E can help to neutralize free radicals and curb inflammation. Vitamin E has also been found to protect the brain cells from damage that is typically caused by the inflammatory and oxidative responses of Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin E supplements have not shown to have the same benefits as vitamin E that was integrated into the diet.

Foods that are high in vitamin E that are often used in Mediterranean meals include:
  • Almonds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Avocados
  • Apples
  • Eggs
  • Olive oil

Vitamin B12 & Memory

Numerous studies have shown that a vitamin B12 deficiency can contribute to poor memory or memory loss. While there is no evidence that increasing levels of vitamin B12 beyond normal daily recommendations will improve memory for Alzheimer’s patients, receiving adequate amounts of the vitamin in the diet may help to prevent memory problems by keeping nerve cells and red blood cells healthy. Vitamin B12 can be found in foods such as shellfish, fish, and eggs that are part of many Mediterranean style meals. For vegetarians, vitamin B12 can be attained by eating soy, fortified cereals, or by taking a vitamin B12 supplement.

Topics: Alzheimer's and Dementia

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