January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Alzheimer's disease is an everchanging neurological disorder that causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to die(1). According to the Landmark Study, in 2020, 15 people were newly diagnosed with dementia every hour in Canada(2). By 2050, this number is supposed to triple. In this article, I discuss ways you can reduce your risk of Alzheimer's Disease (AD).
Enjoy a Mediterranean Style Diet
The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that occurs in multiple countries around the Mediterranean Sea, such as Italy, Spain, Greece, Israel, Turkey, and Morocco.
While the Mediterranean diet varies from place to place, common themes are a high intake of plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, olive oil, and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils); moderate amounts of fish, seafood, eggs, and, low fat milk and milk products; meat and meat products and sweet foods occasionally. The Mediterranean diet, however, is more than just a diet, it is a way of life. This also includes:
regular physical activity
getting enough rest
home cooked meals
sharing meals with others
Multiple studies have been conducted on the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and cognition. A 2016 systematic review found that the majority of the studies it reviewed showed that the Mediterranean diet may contribute to better cognitive performance and may be protective against cognitive impairment and/or dementia, although further studies were needed(3).
Extra virgin olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats as well as antioxidants, specifically two polyphenols - oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol(5). These polyphenols are thought to reduce inflammation in the body.
Monounsaturated fats have a role in the brain to promote immunity and reduce inflammation. Additionally, studies have shown that the consumption of olive oil as a primary fat source in the diet may reduce the risk or slow the development of AD.
Fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel are high in DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), otherwise known as omega-3 fats.
Omega-3 fats are broken down in the body into other molecules that have important roles in the brain, including promotion the of immunity, and the reduction of inflammation(6). Studies have shown that consumption of fish high in omega-3 fats may reduce the risk or slow the development of AD.
Sharing Meals with Others
Eating with others helps to reduce the risk of AD for many reasons. Specifically, the landmark study noted 12 actions for a healthier brain at any age(2). Some of these that involve eating with others include:
Staying socially active
Have depression treated
Finding meaning in life
Sharing meals with others not only provides enjoyment but also mental stimulation. Both are key factors in reducing the risk of AD. So, enjoy your meals with friends and family!
What about Vitamin and Mineral Supplements?
The current evidence does not support the role of vitamin and mineral supplements, either in combination or alone, for the purposes of preventing or treating cognitive decline(4). However, that is not to say that we will not have evidence to support their use in the future. Currently, the strongest evidence is with consumption the of whole foods for their nutritional qualities.
Where can I get more support with nutrition for healthy aging?
If you would like more information on ways to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, I am happy to help! I offer in person and virtual nutrition counselling support for healthy aging, metabolic conditions, and neurological conditions.
Read more about my services here: Virtual and In-Person Nutrition Counselling.
If you would like to book your free 15 minute discovery call with me, you can do so here.
And remember to check with your insurance provider to see if you are covered for Registered Dietitian Services through your plan or health spending account. Dietitian services are also tax deductible!
Mayo Clinic. (2022). Alzheimer's disease. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 22, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350447
Alzheimer Society Canada. (2022). Navigating the Path Forward for Dementia in Canada: The Landmark Study Report #1. alzheimer.ca. Retrieved January 22, 2023, from https://alzheimer.ca/sites/default/files/documents/Landmark-Study-Report-1-Path_Alzheimer-Society-Canada.pdf
Petersson, S. D., & Philippou, E. (2016). Mediterranean diet, cognitive function, and dementia: A systematic review of the evidence. Advances in Nutrition, 7(5), 889–904. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.116.012138
PEN. (2021). Mental health disorders - dementia. Mental Health Disorders - Dementia Summary of Recommendations and Evidence. Retrieved January 22, 2023, from https://www.pennutrition.com/KnowledgePathway.aspx?kpid=3527&trid=2640&trcatid=42
Gorzynik-Debicka, M., Przychodzen, P., Cappello, F., Kuban-Jankowska, A., Marino Gammazza, A., Knap, N., Wozniak, M., & Gorska-Ponikowska, M. (2018). Potential health benefits of olive oil and plant polyphenols. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 19(3), 686. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms19030686
Omega-3 and dementia. Alzheimer's Society. (2022, December 1). Retrieved January 23, 2023, from https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/risk-factors-and-prevention/omega-3-and-dementia