No Brainer Eating Habits

Our guest blogger, Laura is also our nutritionist. She has put some very helpful hints on what you can do to get your nutrition in check and reduce your chances of developing this devastating disease.


November is Alzheimer’s disease Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia accounting for 60-80% of all cases. In my opinion, dementia doesn’t get enough attention. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the US, and every 67 seconds someone in the US develops it. If you haven’t had a personal experience with it, you probably will — 1 in 3 seniors die from some form of dementia.
If you are middle-aged (yes 40 is middle-aged) you might want to read on. Researchers believe that the disease begins around age 40 and often progresses for 20-30 years before symptoms appear. As a nutritionist, I was curious what the research shows on how food affects Alzheimer’s. Based on the current science, here are some suggestions to potentially reduce risk of developing the disease:

Cut back or even eliminate sweets. Insulin resistance may be a big piece of the Alzheimer’s puzzle. The MEAL 4-week study compared a high-fat, high-sugar diet, with a low-fat, low-sugar diet. Those following the low-fat, low-sugar diet for just 4 weeks found a reduction in the blood levels of beta-amyloid, the main component of the deposits found in brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Participants also had a reduction in markers of insulin resistance. This is huge. Insulin resistance is thought to be the underlying pathology for almost all vascular diseases each of which seem to contribute to Alzheimer’s.

Eat healthy fats. When we eat something with glucose (starches, fruits, or added sugars), our bodies pump out insulin to get that glucose into cells. The insulin should quickly clear out of the bloodstream after it’s done its job. When you combine carbohydrate foods (breads, sugars, potatoes, rice) with saturated fat (butter, cheese, beef, bacon, whole milk, ice cream) the insulin remains high for an unusually long time. High levels of insulin in the blood cause inflammation. This doesn’t happen with healthy fats such as olive oil, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and avocado.

Mom was right, eat your veggies.
Antioxidants appear help to stop oxidative damage in the brain. Aim to eat at least 4 ½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day. Focus mostly on non-starchy veggies. In animal models, an antioxidant rich diet improved learning and ability to remember. Follow the ChooseMyPlate method:
my plate

Choose fish. Studies regarding omega-3 fatty acids have found mixed results in Alzheimer’s. But we know that DHA/EPA (in fatty fish) have protective effects on your heart and can improve mood and memory. Vascular disease contributes to dementia so it makes sense to get enough of these healthy fats. Eat two 3-ounce servings of a fatty fish each week. Good sources include salmon, mackerel, swordfish, or sardines. If you choose to take a supplement, check with your doctor, and aim for somewhere between 1-3 grams per day of DHA/EPA.
Most likely none of these suggestions are new to you. Most of us know what to do, but have a hard time doing it. Looking at these suggestions, what is just one thing you might try in the next week? Your brain (and heart) will thank you!


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