Diet and Nutrition
Food for Thought: Dietary Tips to Keep Your Brain Alive
With the average age of Americans increasing, the risk of Alzheimer's may also go up. In individuals aged 75 to 84, one out of five has Alzheimer's. In those older than 85, the rate is two out of five. And like heart disease, you are stuck with some risk factors like heredity. Fortunately, there are ways to keep your brain alive through better nutrition and exercise. Here is the latest research:
- Go fish. The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, mackerel and halibut are not just good for your heart. A handful of research studies suggest that the anti-inflammatory properties of fish are also beneficial in protecting the cell membranes in your brain. Aim for at least five ounces of fatty fish (two to three servings) per week, or consider a fish oil supplement.
- Eat green. Researchers at Harvard found that nurses who ate the most green, leafy vegetables had slower cognitive decline than those consuming the least. Aim for three servings of raw or cooked spinach, kale, romaine and iceberg lettuce daily.
- Avoid bad fats. In two large population studies of older adults, the risk of Alzheimer's disease was doubled in those who consumed the most saturated fat compared to those who ate the least. Consumption of trans fat (found in margarine, fast food and processed foods such as desserts and crackers) also increased the risk of Alzheimer's. Choose monounsaturated fat (avocado, canola, olive or peanut oil) over saturated fat (butter, bacon, beef, processed meats, etc).
- Eat vitamin E-rich foods. While vitamin E supplements have not shown much benefit in preventing cognitive decline, vitamin E in foods may help. Gamma-tocopherol (found in kale, spinach and other leafy greens, nuts, whole grains and vegetable oils) has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Snack on nuts and choose whole grains (such as whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta or bran cereal) when possible.
- Move it or lose it. In the Harvard Nurse's Health study, participants over 70 scored higher on cognitive tests if they exercised than those who did not exercise. Regular exercise was found to help maintain memory. Go for at least 30 minutes of brisk walking daily, or most days of the week. Regular physical activity also lowers blood pressure, improves blood sugar and helps shrink your waistline.
For more information on Alzheimer's Disease, check out the links below:
- Schaefer EJ, et. al. Plasma phosphatidylcholine docosahexaenoic acid content and risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease: the Framingham Heart Study. Arch Neurol. 2006 Nov; 63(11):1545-50.
- Morris MC, et. al. Dietary fats and the risk of incident Alzheimer disease. Arch Neurol. 2003 Feb; 60(2):194-200. Erratum in: Arch Neurol. 2003 Aug; 60(8):1072.
- Kang JH, Ascherio A, Grodstein F. Fruit and vegetable consumption and cognitive decline in aging women. Ann Neurol. 2005 May;57(5):713-20.
- Morris MC, et. al. Relation of the tocopherol forms to incident Alzheimer disease and to cognitive change. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Feb; 81(2):508-14.
- Weuve J, et. al. Physical activity, including walking, and cognitive function in older women. JAMA. 2004 Sep 22; 292(12):1454-61.
For more information:
Go to the Diet and Nutrition
health topic, where you can:
- Read articles on this topic
- Browse the previously asked questions
Last Reviewed: Jan 06, 2010