Healing Kitchen

Alzheimer's Disease
Researchers are discovering powerful links between diet and dementia. While there is no special nutritional formula recommended for Alzheimer’s disease, certain nutrients may help to ward off the degenerative brain disorder.

To reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, promising research suggests long-term consumption of a healthful, balanced diet rich in antioxidants, carotenoids, flavonoids, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins B6, B12, C, and E.

There is growing evidence that particular foods may be associated with brain longevity and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The curry spice turmeric has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are thought to protect against the disorder. In animal studies, turmeric has been shown to slow the buildup of harmful brain plaques characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. According to population studies, the elderly in India, who consume diets rich in curry, have significantly lower rates of the disease compared with the elderly in the West.

Like turmeric, blueberries may also combat age-related mental impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease. Blueberries appear to have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In one study, a daily cup of blueberries prevented mental decline in mice genetically engineered to have Alzheimer’s disease.

Consuming healthful fats—unhydrogentated, unsaturated fats—from such foods as avocados, fish, nuts, olives, olive oil, and seeds appears to be beneficial as well. A high intake of saturated and trans fats doubles the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to population studies. Saturated fats are found in tropical oils and in animal-based foods, such as butter, meat, and whole milk. Trans fats are commonly found in baked goods, margarine, and other processed foods.

Studies are underway to determine if diet can reverse some mental decline and perhaps even postpone the development of more severe symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, once the disease is diagnosed. Individual symptoms and complications associated with Alzheimer’s disease, such as weight loss and swallowing difficulties, can be managed with the help of a physician.

What You Should Eat & Why

Antioxidants may protect against Alzheimer’s disease by neutralizing free radicals—harmful substances that are generated during normal metabolism. Free radicals are thought to contribute to the plaques and tangles found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
Leading Food Sources of antioxidants: Broccoli, Carrots, Sweet potatoes, Onions, Grapes, Tomatoes, Blueberries, Spinach, Oranges, Kale

The antioxidant properties of carotenoids, in combination with vitamins C and E, may help keep nerve cells in the brain from deteriorating.
Leading Food Sources of carotenoids: Carrots, Peppers, sweet, Apricots, Collard greens, Acorn squash, Sweet potatoes, Spinach, Corn, fresh

Researchers believe that the antioxidant actions of flavonoids may protect brain cells from free radical damage that contributes to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Leading Food Sources of flavonoids: Broccoli, Carrots, Pomegranates, Limes, Chocolate, Soybeans, Oranges, Lemons, Apples, Tomatoes, Onions, Grapefruit, white, Blueberries

folic acid
Also known as folate, this essential B vitamin has been shown to lower blood levels of homocysteine. Moderate elevations of homocysteine triple the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to research.
Leading Food Sources of folic acid: Asparagus, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Chick-peas, Soybeans, Lentils, Oranges, Peas, fresh, Turkey, Cabbage, Savoy, Bok choy, Beans, dried, Spinach, Avocados, Beets

omega-3 fatty acids
Laboratory findings suggest that these healthful fats may lessen inflammation that is thought to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.
Leading Food Sources of omega-3 fatty acids: Salmon, Trout, Tuna

vitamin B12
Diminished levels of vitamin B12 may be associated with Alzheimer’s disease. A small Canadian study found that people with the disease had lower levels of vitamin B12 in their spinal fluid than participants free of the disease. In addition, research shows that vitamin B12 teams up with folate and vitamin B6 to reduce blood levels of homocysteine, elevated levels of which have been noted in Alzheimer’s patients.
Leading Food Sources of vitamin B12: Beef, Crab, Lamb, Tuna, Trout, Oysters, Clams, Yogurt

vitamin B6
By reducing blood levels of homocysteine, vitamin B6 may help to ward off Alzheimer’s disease.
Leading Food Sources of vitamin B6: Sweet potatoes, Chick-peas, Salmon, Pork, fresh, Potatoes, Turkey, Chicken, Bok choy, Rice, brown, Barley, Avocados, Mangoes, Bananas, Sunflower seeds, Tuna

vitamin C
Although research investigating the link between vitamin C and Alzheimer’s disease has yielded inconsistent results, a 2002 study of 5,395 people in the Netherlands linked high consumption of vitamin C (from foods) to lower rates of the degenerative brain disorder, particularly among smokers. Vitamin C is thought to guard brain tissue from destructive free radicals.
Leading Food Sources of vitamin C: Cabbage, red, Potatoes, Kiwi fruit, Peppers, bell, red, Strawberries, Oranges, Tangerines & other mandarins

vitamin E
A 2002 study of 815 Chicago residents age 65 and over found that participants with the highest consumption of vitamin E from foods had a 70% lower chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease, compared with those who consumed the least amount of vitamin E from foods. Preliminary evidence indicates that vitamin E may protect against Alzheimer’s disease by acting as an antioxidant and by preventing the build-up of harmful plaque deposits in the brain.
Leading Food Sources of vitamin E: Broccoli, Avocados, Almonds, Brazil nuts, Sunflower seeds, Peanuts, Mangoes

Date Published: 05/03/2005
> Printer-friendly Version