Tag Archives: berries

Does Diet Affect Age-Related Memory Loss and Dementia Risk?

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

Don’t wait to take action until it’s too late

High blood insulin levels and insulin resistance promote age-related degeneration of the brain, leading to memory loss and dementia according to Robert Krikorian, Ph.D.  He’s a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center.  He has an article in a recent issue of Current Psychiatry – Online.

Proper insulin signaling in the brain is important for healthy functioning of our brains’ memory centers.  This signaling breaks down in the setting of insulin resistance and the associated high insulin levels.  Dr. Krikorian makes much of the fact that high insulin levels and insulin resistance are closely tied to obesity.  He writes that:

Waist circumference of ≥100 cm (39 inches) is a sensitive, specific, and independent predictor of hyperinsulinemia for men and women and a stronger predictor than body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio, and other measures of body fat.

Take-Home Points

Dr. Krikorian thinks that dietary approaches to the prevention of dementia are effective yet underutilized.  He mentions reduction of insulin levels by restricting calories or a ketogenic diet: they’ve been linked with improved memory in middle-aged and older adults.

Dr. K suggests the following measures to prevent dementia and memory loss:

  • eliminate high-glycemic foods like processed carbohydrates and sweets
  • replace high-glycemic foods with fruits and vegetables (the higher polyphenol intake may help by itself)
  • certain polyphenols, such as those found in berries, may be particularly helpful in improving brain metabolic function
  • keep your waist size under 39 inches, or aim for that if you’re overweight

I must mention that many, perhaps most, dementia experts are not as confident  as Dr. Krikorian that these dietary changes are effective.  I think they are, to a degree.

The Mediterranean diet is high in fruits and vegetables and relatively low-glycemic.  It’s usually mentioned by experts as the diet that may prevent dementia and slow its progression.

Read the full article.

I’ve written before about how blood sugars in the upper normal range are linked to brain degeneration.  Dr. Krikorian’s recommendations would tend to keep blood sugar levels in the lower end of the normal range.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Speaking of dementia and ketogenic, have you ever heard of the Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet?  (Free condensed version here.)

Berry Science, or Berriology

Mmm, mm, good! And they’re low carb

The Mediterranean diet was originally found to be a healthy diet by comparing populations who followed the diet with those who didn’t.  The result?  Mediterranean dieters enjoyed longer lifespans and less heart disease, cancer, strokes, diabetes, and dementia.

Over the last 15 years, researchers have been clarifying exactly how and why this might be the case.  A study from Finland is a typical example.

The traditional Mediterranean diet provides an abundance of fresh fruit, including berries.  Berries are a rich source of vitamin C and polyphenols, substances with the potential to affect metabolic and disease processes in our bodies.

The Finnish researchers studied 72 middle-aged subjects, having half of them consume moderate amounts of berries, and half consume a placebo product over 8 weeks.  Compared with the placebo group, the berry eaters showed inhibited platelet funtion, a 5% increase in HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol), and a 7-point drop in systolic blood pressure.

What does platelet function have to do with anything?  Platelets are critical components of blood clots.  Blood clots can stop life-threatening bleeding, but also contribute to life-threatening strokes and heart attacks.  Inhibition of platelet function can decrease the occurence of blood clots that cause heart attacks and strokes.  That’s why millions of people take daily aspirin, the best known platelet inhibitor.

Cardiovascular disease is a group of conditions that include high blood pressure, heart attacks, poor circulation, and strokes.  Berry consumption in this small Finnish study resulted in favorable changes in blood pressure, HDL cholesterol, and platelet function.  These changes would tend to reduce the occurence and severity of cardiovascular disease.

So berries don’t just taste good, they’re good for us.  If price is a concern, focus on the berries that are in season or use frozen berries.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Erlund, I., et al, Favorable effects of berry consumption on platelet function, blood pressure, and HDL cholesterol.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87 (2007): 323-331.

Berry Science

The Mediterranean diet was originally found to be a healthy diet by comparing populations who followed the diet with those who didn’t.  The result?  Mediterranean diet followers had less cardiovascular disease, less cancer, and longer life.

Over the last 15 years, researchers have been clarifying exactly how and why this might be the case.  A study from Finland is a typical example.

The traditional Mediterranean diet has an abundance of fresh fruit, including berries.  Berries are a rich source of polyphenols and vitamin C, substances with the potential to affect metabolic and disease processes in our bodies.

The Finnish researchers studied 72 middle-aged subjects, having half of them consume moderate amounts of berries, and half consume a placebo product over 8 weeks.  Compared with the placebo group, the berry eaters showed inhibited platelet funtion, a 5% increase in HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol), and a 7-point drop in systolic blood pressure.

What does platelet function have to do with anything?  Platelets are critical components of blood clots.  Blood clots can stop life-threatening bleeding, but also contribute to life-threatening heart attacks and strokes.  Inhibition of platelet function can decrease the occurence of blood clots that cause heart attacks and strokes.  That’s why millions of people take daily aspirin, the best known platelet inhibitor.

Cardiovascular disease is a group of conditions that include high blood pressure, heart attacks, poor circulation, and strokes.  Berry consumption in this small Finnish study resulted in favorable changes in blood pressure, HDL cholesterol, and platelet function.  These changes would tend to reduce the occurence and severity of cardiovascular disease.

So berries don’t just taste good, they’re good for us.  If price is a concern, focus on the berries that are in season or use frozen berries.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Erlund, I., et al, Favorable effects of berry consumption on platelet function, blood pressure, and HDL cholesterol.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87 (2007): 323-331.