Food combination helps reduce Alzheimer’s risk

April 13, 2010 in Nutrition for Older Adults, Nutrition Topics in the News

Food combination helps reduce Alzheimer’s risk

A new study, published online in the Archives of Neurology from theColumbia University Medical Center in New York has found that a certain food combination may help lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers reported that individuals whose diet includes more salad dressing, nuts, fish, poultry and certain fruits and vegetables and fewer high-fat dairy products, red meats, organ meats and butter were significantly less likely to develop the disease in later life.

In the study, researchers from Columbia University Medical Center, NY followed 2,148 adults without dementia, aged 65 and older, and determined their adherence to dietary patterns thought to be related to the Alzheimer's risk.

The researchers identified several dietary patterns, or food combinations, that varied in amounts of seven nutrients previously shown to be associated with the risk of Alzheimer's disease: saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, omega-3 fats, omega-6 fats, vitamin E, vitamin B 12 and folate.

Study participants provided information about their typical diets and were assessment for the development of dementia every 1.5 years.  Dementia, the most common cause being Alzheimer's disease, describes progressive symptoms such as memory loss, mood changes and a decline in the ability to talk, read and write caused by damage or changes to the brain.

After four years, 253 individuals were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and one dietary pattern was shown to offer significant protection from developing it.

Individuals who had higher intakes of salad dressing, nuts, fish, chicken, tomatoes, fruit, cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens and lower intakes of high fat dairy, red meat, organ meats and butter were 38 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease compared to those who adhered the least to this dietary pattern.

There are a number of ways this combination of foods may reduce Alzheimer's risk.  Vitamin E, found in vegetable oils, almonds, peanuts, soybeans, wheat germ, avocado and green leafy vegetables, is a powerful antioxidant that helps shield brain cells from free radical damage. 

Free radical damage, also called oxidative damage, is believed to contribute to the progressive decline in brain function seen in Alzheimer's. Free radicals are routinely produced within cells as a by-product of oxygen metabolism, but they can also be created from cigarette smoke and air pollution. The brain is especially vulnerable to free radical damage because of its high demand for oxygen, its abundance of easily oxidized cell membranes, and its weak antioxidant defences.

Foods plentiful in folate, such as green vegetables, citrus fruit, and nuts help keep blood levels of an amino acid, called homocysteine, in check. Having a high homocysteine level is thought to damage artery walls and increase the risk of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

Healthy fats found in oily fish, salad dressing and nuts may protect from dementia by reducing inflammation, blood clot formation, and hardening of the arteries in the brain.  These fats may also prevent the build-up of a protein called beta amyloid, which can interfere with communication between brain cells.

A diet low in high fat dairy products, butter, red meat and organ meats is lower in saturated fat, the type of fat that raises LDL (bad) cholesterol and, in turn, can damage arteries. Previous research has, in fact, linked a higher intake of saturated (animal) fat with a two to three fold greater risk of Alzheimer's disease.   

For more information on how certain foods can help protect your health, check out Leslie Beck's book, Foods that Fight Disease, or click here to book an appointment.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.