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What Is the Connection Between Alzheimer's and Diet?

An elderly lady with Alzheimer's disease.
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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 March 2014
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There are several potential connections between Alzheimer’s and diet that should be taken into consideration by those with the disease, or those who are trying to prevent it. For one, there are some studies to suggest that eating certain foods in large amounts may present a much higher risk of Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases. There is also research which supports the idea that other foods may help lower the risk, and even treat mild cases of the disease by slowing the rate of degeneration.

One of the primary connections between Alzheimer’s and diet is that foods which are high in fat, especially “bad” fats like saturated varieties, may increase the risk of getting the disease later in life. Most people already know to avoid saturated and trans fats for heart health, but studies have indicated that eating too much food containing them may also contribute to brain deconstruction and dementia. This may be due to fatty buildup around brain tissue or because the neurons are not getting the proper nutrition for adequate function.

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Another connection between Alzheimer’s and diet is that certain foods have shown to be effective at preventing or slowing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. A general rule of thumb is that if it’s good for the heart, it’s good for preventing Alzheimer’s. Foods which have shown to increase brain health include those containing omega-3 fatty acids and “good” cholesterol. Some research even suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may help to rebuild brain tissue in some people, and is also effective in treating things like depression and anxiety by increasing healthy brain cells.

Those who have the disease may benefit from eating heart-healthy foods, but there is no particular diet recommended for Alzheimer’s patients. Since it generally occurs in the elderly, the same healthy eating practices recommended for all senior citizens is recommended for those with Alzheimer’s. This includes eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, goods fats, complex carbohydrates, and very few sweets and fatty foods.

Anyone at high risk for dementia due to genetic factors should investigate further the effects of Alzheimer’s and diet on various patients. There are some emerging studies indicating that certain herbs and spices, such as curry, may be beneficial at preventing the disease. These can generally be added to food during cooking. Not much is known about the long-term benefits of these regimens yet, although pharmaceutical companies are attempting to create synthetic versions of some natural remedies. In any event, there is no risk or harm in adding most of these items to the diet as a preventative measure.

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