New and ongoing research is increasingly pointing to the importance of nutrition and lifestyle in the prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia. New dietary guidelines, called the MIND Diet (for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay”) appear to reduce the risk of developing these diseases. The emphasis in the case of the MIND diet is on a largely plant-based diet, with lots of green leafy vegetables, berries (especially blueberries), nuts, beans, whole grains (we recommend gluten free), olive oil, and one glass of wine per day.
During the 4+ years of the study leading up to the development of this diet, 923 participants were followed (average age: 81). Participants who adhered closely to the guidelines reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by a striking 53%.
It is anticipated that other foods will be added to the list in the near future. For example, David Perlmutter, MD, a well respected, board-certified neurologist and expert in the areas of brain health and disease, believes in the brain-protective properties of coffee, tea, coconut oil, fermented foods such as kombucha and kimchi, dark chocolate and red wine, among others. Dr. Perlmutter is involved in a fascinating branch of research linking the health of the gut flora, or “microbiome”, to brain, and general, health. He highly recommends the addition of medical-grade probiotics, as well as certain nutrients such as turmeric, Vitamin D, DHA, and Alpha Lipoic Acid, as well as specialized formulas. One example being an exclusive formula designed to activate the Nrf2 genetic pathway. This pathway regulates the production of important molecules that impart antioxidant activity, such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase (SOD). It also regulates the production of detoxification enzymes, including glutathione S-transferase, and down regulates signaling factors such as NF-ϰB. Each ingredient in this formula is backed by extensive research in peer reviewed journals.
The importance of lifestyle factors cannot be overstated when it comes to the prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Research performed by the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation indicates that the ideal amount of exercise for the maintenance of cognitive fitness as we age, and for the prevention of Alzheimer’s, is 150 minutes per week of a combination of aerobic exercise and weight training. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America recommends a 30 minute walk every day. Regular physical activity also lowers the risk of cardiovascular complications which can contribute to dementia.
Other important lifestyle interventions would include: practicing stress management , e.g. through the regular practice of meditation or yoga; maintaining an active social life; limiting alcohol consumption; stimulating the mind with reading, crossword puzzles, or learning a musical instrument or foreign language; and stopping smoking (for those who smoke!).
It is still unknown when the onset of changes in the brain marking the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s actually begins, and it may occur decades before symptoms start to appear. For that reason, it is wise to start implementing these diet and lifestyle changes sooner rather than later, and thus to take control of as many modifiable risk factors as possible, as early as possible.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.