For those of us over 60, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, are the most dreaded of illnesses. Many of us have seen our parents or other family members waste away from these devastating diseases and we don’t want to go that way!
Today is the first of a two-part series on how food can help us prevent Alzheimer’s disease! Remember, Food IS Medicine!
First let me say that for those who are worried that they’ll get this disease simply because they have a gene that predisposes them to Alzheimer’s, many recent studies have found that lifestyle plays a significant role in your level of risk.
One of the most important lifestyle factors impacting the risk for Alzheimer’s disease is often talked about here in my articles and that is the food we eat on a regular basis.
We now know that there is a link between diet and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, studies show that certain foods are associated with increased risk for Alzheimer’s, while other foods and eating habits can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
In fact, recent studies suggest that our diet may be a key factor in preventing Alzheimer’s. Additionally, eating brain healthy foods and reducing our consumption of those foods that cause inflammation can also reduce other risk factors for Alzheimer’s, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Let’s start with five foods that INCREASE our risk for Alzheimer’s Disease:
- High-fat dairy – Reducing consumption of ice cream, whipped cream, half and half, and other high fat dairy products can protect your brain. This study in the Archives of Neurology shows that high-fat dairy increases our risk of cognitive decline.
- Processed meat – I know it’s summer, but resist the temptation to grill hot dogs, sausages kielbasa, and packing salami sandwiches for your picnic. A 2021 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating just 25 grams of processed meats each day was linked to a 52% increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and a 44% increase in the risk of developing any form of dementia. These foods are highly inflammatory, so if you have inflammation anywhere in your body, try eliminating these for 30 days and see how you feel.
- High-glycemic foods – Pretzels, cookies, and cakes are not for every day consumption. In a study from researchers at the Mayo Clinic, people who regularly ate refined carbohydrates like breakfast cereal, white bread, pasta, potatoes, and white rice, and the other pastries mentioned above, had a 400 percent increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
- High-sugar foods – Sugar is the enemy! Soda, energy drinks, and products labeled as “healthy snacks,” can rob you of your memory. Research in a 2022 issue of Nutritional Neuroscience concluded that excessive intake of sugar significantly increases the risk of Alzheimer’s in older women. Eating just an additional 10 grams of sugar per day (about 2.4 teaspoons) was associated with a 30-40% increased risk for Alzheimer’s. Many foods have added sugar and we don’t even realize it! Make sure you read the labels.
- Excessive alcohol – I know that this is not a popular idea, but bears at least some thought. A recent study in The Lancet concluded that heavy drinking is the single biggest modifiable risk factor for all forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. This 2019 analysis of over 1 million people reported that heavy alcohol use is also linked to early-onset forms of the disease, which is when the disease affects people before the age of 65. Cut back alcohol consumption if you want to prevent Alzheimer’s. In case you’re wondering, the CDC guidelines state that “moderate” drinking is a average of one drink per day (or less) for women and 2 per day for men. “Drinking at levels above the moderate drinking guidelines significantly increases the risk of short-term harms, such as injuries, as well as the risk of long-term chronic health problems, such as some types of cancer.”
This information may sound restrictive if you’re used to eating all these foods, but keep in mind that any small change you make can help reduce your risks for dementia. Choose one thing to reduce or replace from your diet and do that now. In a couple of months, you may want to choose another. Small changes provide the biggest long-term results!
Next newsletter I’ll discuss five foods that help prevent Alzheimer’s!
Until then, enjoy this video of “Super Brain Yoga!”
Best of Health,