What is Alzheimer’s?
It is the most common form of dementia i.e. a disease characterized by memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem solving and language. Alzheimer's is the 6th leading cause of death in the US affecting 5.3 million Americans and 12 million people worldwide.
People with Alzheimer’s develop beta-amyloid plaque i.e. clusters of protein that inhibit communication between nerve cells and tangles i.e. dead or dying nerve cells, which stop nutrient supply between the nerve cells. The initial symptoms include depression, irritability, confusion and forgetfulness. As Alzheimer's progresses, problems with memory loss, communication, reasoning and orientation become more severe. Genes may play a significant role in the development of dementia.
Neal Barnard quoted “By staying active and moving plant-based foods to the center of our plates, we have a fair shot at rewriting the risk of Alzheimer’s.”
Diet and Alzheimer’sThe risk for Alzheimer’s is greater in people who consume a diet high in cholesterol and saturated fats and low in fiber, vegetables and fruits. This results in the formation of beta-amyloid plaques.
A brain-healthy diet combined with physical and mental activity, proper stress management and social interaction reduces progression of Alzheimer’s. According to a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta-carotene and flavonoids are powerful anti-oxidants, which combat free radicals responsible for brain degeneration associated with Alzheimer’s.
Citrus fruits contain significant amounts of Vitamin C whereas nuts, oilseeds and cereals boost Vitamin E intake. Eating yellow, red and orange-colored fruits and vegetables helps meet beta-carotene intake. Onions, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, apples and sweet potato are dietary sources of flavonoids.
A study published in the journal Neurology revealed that people eating foods rich in folate and Vitamin B12 reduce their risk of Alzheimer's. Homocysteine is a neurotoxin, which damages the temporal lobe. Leafy vegetables, oranges, nuts and legumes are sources of folate whereas chicken, fish, dairy products contribute towards Vitamin B 12 intake.
Sufficient Vitamin D is imperative for proper functioning of the immune system and for combating inflammation associated with Alzheimer's. Exposure to early morning sun is the best source of Vitamin D. Eggs, fish and dairy products are dietary sources of Vitamin D.
Intake of omega-3 fats prevents cell damage caused by Alzheimer's. Omega-3 fats control calcium flow in and out of the brain. Excess calcium build-up inside brain cells contributes to the production of the beta-amyloid protein, which results in Alzheimer’s. Walnuts, flaxseeds, oily fish like salmon and mackerel are dietary sources for Omega -3 fats.
Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric counteracts symptoms of Alzheimer’s. It binds amyloid proteins and prevents them from grouping together to form plaque. Additionally, turmeric reduces the inflammation of neural tissue.
Eating a diet containing fiber and lower amount of saturated fats is recommended for people suffering from Alzheimer’s. Whole grain cereals and pulses, fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber.
A study in the journal JAMA Neurology established that people who ate a diet high in saturated fats like meat, egg yolk and full fat-dairy products and high glycaemic index foods such as sweets, chocolates, ice-creams and cakes have increased levels of beta-amyloid protein in their Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF).