Category Archives: Dementia

Mediterranean diet may slow cognitive decline, prevent Alzheimer’s 

But we’ve know this for years…

“A new review concludes that a Mediterranean diet is good for the brain, after finding that people who follow the diet are less likely to experience cognitive decline and develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers say greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet may benefit cognitive function for younger and older adults.Lead author Roy Hardman, from the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, and his team publish their findings in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

The Mediterranean diet incorporates a high intake of plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, while limiting intake of red meat and replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil.The diet also emphasizes eating fish or poultry at least twice a week and using herbs and spices rather than salt to flavor food.”

Source: Mediterranean diet may slow cognitive decline, prevent Alzheimer’s – Medical News Today

Does Dietary Fat Influence Older Brain Function?

MRI scan of brain

MRI scan of brain

The Mediterranean diet has long been linked to lower rates of dementia. Olive oil, a staple of the traditional Mediterranean diet, is rich in monounsaturated fatty acid (oleic acid, specifically). The Mediterranean diet is also relatively low in saturated fatty acid.

From a 2012 study done by Harvard researchers:

“In conclusion, these data suggest that elevated saturated fatty acid intake is related to worse late-life cognitive trajectory, and increased monounsaturated fatty acid intake is related to better cognitive aging. Thus, decreasing saturated fatty acid and increasing monounsaturated fatty acid merit further consideration in promoting healthy cognitive aging, and dietary patterns that incorporate higher intake of “good” fats (e.g., Mediterranean) should be further addressed in cognitive aging research.”

Source: Dietary fat types and 4-year cognitive change in community-dwelling older women

PS: The study at hand involved women, so results may not apply to older men.

Steve Parker MD, Advanced Mediterranean Diet

Two diet books in one

Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Dementia: What’s the Connection?

dementia, memory loss, Mediterranean diet, low-carb diet, glycemic index, dementia memory loss

“More basic research is critical.”

Several scientific studies, but not all, link type 2 diabetes with Alzheimer’s disease. Some go so far as to say Alzheimer’s is type 3 diabetes.

My Twitter feed brought to my attention a scientific article I thought would clarify the relationships between diabetes, carbohydrate consumption, and Alzheimer’s dementia (full text).

It didn’t.

Click the full text link to read all about insulin, amylin, insulin degrading enzyme, amyloid–β, and other factors that might explain the relationship between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s dementia. You’ll also find a comprehensive annotated list of the scientific studies investigating the link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Bottom line: We still don’t know the fundamental cause of Alzheimer’s disease. A cure and highly effective preventive measures are far in the future.

Action Plan For You

You may be able to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by:

  • avoiding type 2 diabetes
  • preventing progression of prediabetes to diabetes
  • avoiding obesity
  • exercising regularly
  • eating a Mediterranean-style diet

Carbohydrate restriction helps some folks prevent or resolve obesity, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes. A low-carb Mediterranean diet is an option in my Advanced Mediterranean Diet (2nd edition).

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Schilling, Melissa. Unraveling Alzheimer’s: Making Sense of the Relationship Between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 51 (2016): 961-977.

Steve Parker MD, Advanced Mediterranean Diet

Two diet books in one

 

 

 

 

Seafood Consumption May Protect Against Alzheimers Dementia

…according to an article at the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study involved Chicago-area residents who had provided information about their eating habits. After death, their brains were biopsied, looking for typical pathological findings of Alzheimers Disease.

fresh salmon and lobsters

Rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, sardines, herring, trout, and mackerel

Participants who ate seafood at least once a week had fewer Alzheimers lesions in their brains, but only if they were carriers of a particular gene the predisposes to Alzheimers. The gene is called apolipoprotein E or APOE ε4.

You’ve heard that seafood may be contaminated with mercury, right? The seafood eaters in this study indeed had higher brain levels of mercury, but it didn’t cause any visible brain damage.

The Mediterranean diet, relatively rich in seafood, has long been linked to a lower risk of dementia.

A weakness of the study is that the researchers didn’t report results of clinical testing for dementia in these participants before they died. You can have microscopic evidence of Alzheimers disease on a biopsy, yet no clinically diagnosis of dementia.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Steve Parker MD, Advanced Mediterranean Diet

Two diet books in one

How to Preserve Brain Function Despite Aging

There are ways of slowing or reversing losses in cognitive function. The most effective discovered so far is physical exercise, which protects the brain by protecting the body’s cardiovascular health. Mental exercise, often called brain training, is widely promoted, but it boosts only the particular skill that is practised – its narrow impact mirroring that of educational interventions at other ages. Various drugs are being investigated for their value in staving off normal cognitive decline, but for now preventive maintenance is still the best bet – avoid smoking, drinking to excess, head injuries and the like.

Don’t forget regular exercise. Also, I think the Mediterranean diet helps preserve brain function, but it’s difficult to prove.

MRI scan of brain

MRI scan of brain

That quotes from an Instant Expert paper on intelligence. It’s full of interesting facts such as the typical difference in IQ between strangers is 17 points. It answers the question whether an enriched school or home environment can increase intelligence.

The article mentions overload of patients’ brains when medical care is too complicated:

Given the complexity of self-care regimes, it is hardly surprising that some people make dangerous errors or fail to comply. The effective management of diabetes, for example, requires a person to keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range, which means coordinating diet, exercise and medication throughout the day, which in turn requires planning for contingencies, recognising when blood sugar is veering too high or low, knowing how to regain control and conceptualising the imperceptible but cumulative damage caused by failing to maintain control. There is no set recipe for people with diabetes to follow – their bodies and circumstances differ. Moreover, they get little training, virtually no supervision and no days off. Effectively managing your diabetes is a cognitively complex job and poor performance has serious consequences, including emergency room visits, lost limbs or eyesight, and even death. The lower the diabetic person’s IQ, the greater the risks.

You’ll also learn about the Flynn effect and possible explanations for it:

Over the past century, each successive generation has answered more IQ test items correctly than the last, the rise being equivalent to around 3 IQ points per decade in developed nations. This is dubbed the “Flynn effect” after the political scientist James Flynn, who most thoroughly documented it. Are humans getting smarter, and if so, why? 

I’m more inclined to think Idiocracy describes our future.

Steve Parker, M.D.

h/t James Fulford

Mediterranean Diet Helps Preserve Brain Function

Well, perhaps that’s a bit of an overstatement. Preserved brain function and the Mediterranean diet were  positively associated in a study involving Americans in Utah. This fits with prior observations that the Mediterranean diet prevents dementia.

Macadamia nuts

In the study at hand, the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) also protected the brain:

Higher levels of accordance [compliance] with both the DASH and Mediterranean dietary patterns were associated with consistently higher levels of cognitive function in elderly men and women over an 11-year period. Whole grains and nuts and legumes were positively associated with higher cognitive functions and may be core neuroprotective foods common to various healthy plant-centered diets around the globe.

See the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition for details.

Mediterranean Diet Once Again LInked to Reduced Age-Related Brain Decline

…particularly in Australian men at high genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease. MedPageToday has the details.