Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease. You want to know how to care for someone with Alzheimer’s. But if you’re currently watching your loved one suffering from this disease, more importantly, you want to know:
How do I prevent it in myself and others I love?
You’ll see a lot of incomplete and conflicting information out there, so you may be asking:
Is there really any evidence that a certain diet can prevent Alzheimer’s?
Let’s take a look at the research to find the truth.
What Causes Alzheimer’s?
At this time, researchers can’t definitively say what causes the disease.
They do know that people with early-onset have a gene that makes them more susceptible. Early onset is defined as manifesting before 65, but can affect people as young as their 30’s.
In late-onset — after 65 — scientists do suspect a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. They have been able to clearly link the existence of these factors to the disease.
But determining the point at which these factors cause the disease — or whether avoiding certain factors could prevent it — is still being investigated.
Scientists are studying how age affects the brain. Aging can:
- Harm neurons
- Shrink the brain
- Cause inflammation
- Increase free radicals
- Break down thepowerhouse within the cell (mitochondria).
- What they’ve yet understand is why some people experience much more age-related damage.
According the National Institute on Aging, studies have at this time not been able to definitively link any health or lifestyle changes — including dietary — to the prevention or slowing of the progression of the disease.
At this time, there are no clinical trials that support any medication or dietary supplement’s ability to prevent the condition.
This can leave us with a very bleak picture of the possibilities of preventing and treating the disease. But keep in mind that comprehensive studies take time to definitively prove that any lifestyle change prevents or slows a condition.
Alzheimer’s in particular, as a disease associated with the elderly, may not onset until well into an aging person’s life.
To confirm a benefit without a shadow of a doubt, the study must go on for the span of a lifetime.
But we need to know now how to prevent Alzheimer’s. Because of this, it’s important to know what studies are showing in the shorter term so we’re not misled by bogus research in our pursuit for reducing our risk factors.
There are some very promising studies to consider.
Let’s look at some of those now.
Promising Ongoing Diet Research
Several studies suggest that eating certain foods help keep your brain healthy. Based upon several validated studies, we know this definitively.
A healthy, well-rounded, whole food diet can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases like heart disease, arthritis, anxiety and depression.
Scientists are studying whether such a diet can also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
So far, they have been able to show that those who eat ample vegetables and leafy greens do show a reduced rate of cognitive decline.
One observational study showed a 48% lower risk of progression from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s for those eating a diet high in these foods as well as fish, legumes (beans), whole grains and olive oil.
It’s important to note that observational studies are considered less valid within the scientific community because they require people to self-report their activities or the results. But the fact that there is a significant 48% difference between the experimental and control groups adds some weight to this study.
In another study, scientists fed rats a traditional “western diet” heavy on refined carbs and saturated fats. When compared with the control group, over time the diet notably affected the rats’ spacial memory, a skill closely linked to Alzheimer’s in humans.
In another study, scientists focused on DHA, a component of Omega 3 Fatty Acid (good fat). Although the study showed no proof that DNA could slow Alzheimer’s in those already diagnosed they saw some promise for those who started it before symptoms occur. Ongoing research is needed to solidify this connection.
Scientists are also very interested in the prevention benefits of antioxidants. Antioxidants have been shown to fight free radical damage. Free radicals increase as a person ages.
One observational study showed that the antioxidant Resveratol, which is found in red wine, was associated with less frequent Alzheimer’s onset. Drink in moderation, of course.
Resveratol has been shown to reduce the risk of many age related ailments.
Can a Certain Diet Prevent Alzheimer’s?
At this time the evidence is inconclusive. But it does strongly support a link between a healthy balanced diet and a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
If you’re concerned about Alzheimer’s, the best thing you can do for yourself is do what you know is right for your body — eat healthy.
Kristen is a passionate writer, teacher, and mother to a wonderful son. When free time presents itself, you can find her tackling her lifelong goal of learning the piano!