Foods That May Slow or Prevent Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that affects the brain. People with Alzheimer’s have problems with memory, thinking, and reasoning. There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are things you can do to slow it down or prevent it from happening. One of those things is to eat foods that are good for your brain. Here are some foods that may help protect your brain from Alzheimer’s:
- Olive oil
- Green tea
- Dark chocolate
These are just some of the foods that may help keep your brain healthy and minimize your chances of developing Alzheimer’s.
Diet and Dementia Risk
Changes in the brain can occur years before the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear. These early brain changes suggest a possible window of opportunity to prevent or delay dementia symptoms. Scientists are looking at many possible ways to do this, including drugs, lifestyle changes and combinations of these interventions. Unlike other risk factors for Alzheimer’s that we can’t change, such as age and genetics, people can control lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise and cognitive training.
How could what we eat affect our brains? It’s possible that eating a certain diet affects biological mechanisms, such as oxidative stress and inflammation, that underlie Alzheimer’s. Or perhaps diet works indirectly by affecting other Alzheimer’s risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. A new avenue of research focuses on the relationship between gut microbes — tiny organisms in the digestive system — and aging-related processes that lead to Alzheimer’s.
The Mediterranean and MIND Diets and Alzheimer’s
One diet that shows some promising evidence is the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, and other seafood; unsaturated fats such as olive oils; and low amounts of red meat, eggs, and sweets. A variation of this, called MIND (Mediterranean–DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) incorporates the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which has been shown to lower high blood pressure, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
Ingredients of the MIND Diet
The MIND diet focuses on plant-based foods linked to dementia prevention. It encourages eating from 10 healthy food groups:
Leafy green vegetables, at least 6 servings/week
Other vegetables, at least 1 serving/day
Berries, at least 2 servings/week
Whole grains, at least 3 servings/day
Fish, 1 serving/week
Poultry, 2 servings/week
Beans, 3 servings/week
Nuts, 5 servings/week
Wine, 1 glass/day*
The MIND diet limits servings of red meat, sweets, cheese, butter/margarine and fast/fried food.
*Be careful about how much alcohol you drink. How the body handles alcohol can change with age. Learn more about alcohol and older adults.
Some, but not all, observational studies — those in which individuals are observed or certain outcomes are measured, without treatment — have shown that the Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk for dementia. These studies compared cognitively normal people who ate a Mediterranean diet with those who ate a Western-style diet, which contains more red meat, saturated fats and sugar.