Last updated: November 15, 2017
Alzheimer’s disease and its risk factors are not completely understood, but researchers have found links between compounds in the foods we eat and a decreased rate of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. In fact, some researchers believe that food and nutrition should be a key focus in the investigation of ways to prevent and treat the disease.
Learn more about how some superfoods are improving brain health and memory to fight against Alzheimer’s.
While many superfood compounds are made available in pill form as nutritional supplements, they are most readily absorbed and utilized by your body in their natural form, as foods.
Dr. Susan Taylor Mayne, professor at Yale University, told theScientific American, “A major problem with supplements is that they deliver nutrients out of context. The vitamins found in fruits, vegetables and other foods come with thousands of other phytochemicals, or plant nutrients that are not essential for life but may protect against… Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic ailments.”
So next time you go shopping, treat yourself to some of the delicious, nutritious brain-healthy foods below:
Vegetables, particularly leafy green vegetables, have been shown to have protective effects on the brain according to research published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology. Research shows that not just leafy greens are beneficial, but vegetable intake in general, is beneficial for your health.
One important note: seniors who take blood thinners should avoid greens like kale which is high in vitamin K, as this can potentially cause dangerous drug interactions.
According to research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, omega-3 fatty acids, which are commonly found in some fish, grains and nuts, can potentially help to slow the rate of decline in Alzheimer’s.
Similar findings were reported in the European Journal of Nutrition. Both studies acknowledge further research is necessary and the Alzheimer’s Association adds, “there is not yet sufficient evidence to recommend any omega-3 fatty acids to treat Alzheimer’s disease.”
Because foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids are naturally some of the healthiest foods there are, they are beneficial to whole-body health even if the scientific community hasn’t confirmed that they can actually slow Alzheimer’s.
Chocolate and coffee contain caffeine, which studies have shown can improve brain function and memory.
A study in the International Journal of Molecular Science indicated that caffeine may “slow Alzheimer’s disease pathology” through inhibiting a neurotransmitter believed to be associated with Alzheimer’s, acetylcholinesterase. A study published in Molecular Medicine Reports seemed to confirm potential benefits, finding that daily caffeine intake is associated with “significantly increased memory capability,” and may “reverse memory impairment.”
Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric are also rich in their own unique compounds and may have multiple cognitive benefits. The journal Central Nervous Systems Agents in Medicinal Chemistry says, “the neuroprotective effects of spices have been demonstrated and, whether directly or indirectly, such beneficial effects may also contribute to an improvement in cognitive function.” Spices contain so many compounds that they have multiple potential beneficial modes of action, including “anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-hypertensive and gluco-regulatory.”
Scientists have also been exploring the benefits of antioxidants and there is some evidence that dietary antioxidants may improve cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
For example, one study reported on in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that an antioxidant may be able to reduce plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s. Foods high in antioxidants include: berries like raspberries, strawberries, oranges and other dark skinned fruits.
Coconut oil is being investigated for its Alzheimer’s fighting effects. One study, found in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, even investigated the possibility of using coconut oil to replace an approved medicine used to treat Alzheimer’s (caprylidene).
While further research is required, there is strong anecdotal evidence for the benefits of coconut oil for dementia. Dr. Mary T. Newport’s book, “Alzheimer’s Disease: What if There Was a Cure?,“strongly argues that coconut coconut oil may help people with Alzheimer’s.
Olive oil also contains the above mentioned compounds, polyphenols. The particular phenols unique to olive oil may be particularly neuroprotective according to a study published in Nutritional Neuroscience.
Are there particular foods you believe could help Alzheimer’s or other types of dementias? Or, are you skeptical about a diet’s connection to Alzheimer’s? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.