Knowledge is power. But in some instances, one can’t help but wonder whether ignorance is bliss. According to a recent study from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, a common ingredient used to produce the buttery flavor and smell in microwave popcorn, margarine, candy and baked goods is now being linked to Alzheimer’s.
Life is all about enjoyment. Well enjoyment in moderation, that is. But when armed with the knowledge that certain goodies may cause Alzheimer’s, what do you do? Many seniors I know believe that people in modern society are overly paranoid when it comes to new studies and diet limitations. In fact, my grandpa’s philosophy of “I’ve made it this far… Why don’t I just enjoy the time I have left?” always seems to resonate when I see these types of studies published.
But I can’t help but hesitate when I think about today’s world of over-processed foods, bio-engineered foods and technology exposures that didn’t exist, even a decade ago. No wonder my grandparents don’t worry; they come from a generation that wasn’t as ‘at-risk’ for majority-of-life exposure. Today, Americans are exposing themselves on a regular basis to many harmful substances, and we couldn’t be more ignorant about it.
It almost seems that one has to shop at specialty grocery stores, such as Whole Foods and PCC and pay an ‘arm and a leg’ for daily food to minimize the risk of exposure to these non-organic chemicals. But, chances are, even specialty grocery stores pose some risk, as there are always new findings and FDA approvals.
Chemical Buildup: Why We’re at Risk for Alzheimer’s
Recent Study – Chemical Research in Toxicology Examined Diacetyl (DA)
The study at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis conducted an analysis of DA, a chemical which previously has been linked to respiratory problems in employees at microwave popcorn and food-flavoring factories. They found that DA has a structure that’s similar to a substance that makes beta-amyloid proteins. Apparently, too much amyloid that clumps together to form plaques are a “tell-tale marker of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain,” according to scientists. The researchers wanted to see whether DA would clump those proteins in a similar fashion to form plaques, and they found DA did lead to an increase in levels of beta-amyloid clumping, leading to toxic effects on nerve cells the scientists grew in a laboratory. So the DA chemical—a very common ingredient in many enjoyable foods—definitely has a link to Alzheimer’s. The scary part? The candy, baked goods, margarine and popcorn all line the shelves at grocery stores. And these aren’t the only problem foods.
Apparently DA It is also created naturally in fermented drinks like beer, and gives some chardonnay wines its buttery taste. Most pet foods also have this common ingredient. Most believe that moderation is key, but findings are just beginning to be released (although I’m sure many had an inkling many of these foods weren’t good for us to begin with).
Other Alzheimer’s Contributor Foods
Dr. Oz labels the following categories of foods as Alzheimer’s contributors:
Many Meats – Meats such as bacon, smoked turkey from the deli counter and ham have all been linked to Alzheimer’s. All of these smoked meats contain Nitrosamines which cause the liver to make fats that are toxic to the brain. These Nitrosamines have the ability to enter the brain to cause Alzheimer’s.
Processed Foods - Processed foods, especially cheeses, such as American cheese, mozzarella sticks, Laughing Cow, Cheez whiz and other processed cheese are linked to protein buildups associated with Alzheimer’s.
Beer – As mentioned above, beer is on the ‘problem list’ for Alzheimer’s as many processed beers contain nitrites. You can try to find beers without nitrites, but it is difficult as most beers do not have an ingredient list.
White Food – White flour (including pasta made with white flour), cakes, white sugar, white rice and white bread are all foods that bump up your insulin and send toxins to your brain.
Healthy Foods That Help Combat Alzheimer’s Disease
Rush Institute for Healthy Aging discovered that foods rich in vitamin E are associated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Those foods include oil-based salad dressings, fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables, cantaloupe, seeds and nuts. Rush also discovered that people who eat fish at least once a week are 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who rarely or never ate fish. The key ingredient, the Rush team believes, is the n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish.
And a bonus? Dark chocolate has shown to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s as Norwegian researchers found that the flavonoids in cocoa increase blood flow to the brain that can help to prevent forms of dementia that cause Alzheimer’s. So there’s a splurge that’s worth it.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Moderation is key. But just being in tune with our body’s needs and thinking of food as fuel is important. Splurging is okay, every once in awhile, if we’re cognizant of what’s important for actual nourishment. And, of course, healthy exercise and socialization also help ‘keep a body good.’
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