Dementia can be a scary prospect, especially if it runs in your family. Whilst there’s no fix for it yet, there are lots of methods to reduce your risk via lifestyle changes – such as adding exercise, or changing your diet. Although there are many theories defending the properties of some food as anti-aging or anti-dementia ones, our collaborator, Edward Francis compiled an easy list for us, suggesting top 6 foods are well known to help prevent dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Here are the top 6 foods for lowering the risk of developing dementia.
Berries have a lot of benefits when it comes to lowering your risk of dementia, and they’re easier to add into your diet – whether as dessert or daily snacks. Firstly, they contain vitamin C and E, both of which are shown in studies to reduce the risk of developing dementia. It’s theorized that part of what causes issues like dementia is damage to the brain, caused by something known as ‘free radicals’. Vitamins C and E can reduce the effect of these free radicals, as well as actively protecting against some in particular (for instance, vitamin E can help defend against amyloid proteins in patients with Alzheimer’s). These benefits by themselves would be great, but they also contain anthocyanin – another chemical which specifically targets free radicals. These are found most in blue and purple fruits, so blackberries and blueberries are the ones to watch.
Another great one to add as a snack alongside berries is almonds. Also high in vitamin E, they have the added benefit of being low in saturated fats, meaning you don’t need to be too careful about how many you eat. They’re also high in biotin, a complex b-vitamin. Whilst research into B-vitamins and dementia is still in early stages, its being thought that they may have an effect (and, even if they don’t, they keep your skin healthy!). Almonds are great for lowering your risk of dementia, as well as reducing the risk of developing gallstones and heart disease. You may as well try them, right?
Fish (or a vegetarian alternative)
Fish is packed with omega-3, one of the key things to ensure you’ve got in your diet if you want to reduce your risk of dementia. People with low omega-3 have higher amounts of brain shrinkage, and do worse in memory tests so this is one backed by quite a lot of evidence! If you eat fish, then you want cold-water fish mostly – salmon, tuna, and so on. You could also take fish oil supplements instead. But don’t worry – if you’re a vegetarian (or simply not a fan of fish) you can get vegetarian omega 3. It’s possible to get vegetarian supplements, but our favorite sources are walnuts, flax seeds and cabbage.
Finally, turmeric. Turmeric is a spice that we in the west don’t eat so much of – but if you’re a fan of Indian food you may well do. It contains something called curcumin, and antioxidant that can break down amyloid-beta plaques. These plaques are one of the key signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Whilst the research on turmeric is variable, one thing that is clear is that curcumin definitely has a great effect. We recommend eating adding turmeric to your meals or adding a supplement since the research is still underway, but it’s looking hopeful.
Regularly called a superfood, in this case it’s true. Kale contains a lot of things essential for reducing your risk of dementia. As mentioned earlier, B-vitamins are a potential source of reduction, and kale contains b9 – known to reduce depression and increase cognition. The main thing we’re interested in here though is folate (or folic acid). A study from 2008 shows that dementia is three times as common in people whose blood has low levels of folates. This is a huge amount, and kale is a great source of it. Whilst the reasons behind this link aren’t yet known, it’s clear that it exists. Another bonus to Kale is that it has cartenoids which lower homocysteine. If this doesn’t mean much, let’s phrase it another way: homocysteine is an amino acid which is linked to cognitive impairment (the thing we want to avoid!) and kale contains things that reduce that. Well worth adding in to your diet.
For once, something telling you coffee is good, not bad! A study in Florida showed that those with caffeine in their blood had a much lower risk of dementia. This is just one study, but it’s a good start. There are others that seem to back the results, and some that disagree. However, when looking into the specifics with mice, scientists found that caffeine reduces the brains ability to recognize adenosine. Adenosine causes the brain to become inflamed (a huge part of what we see in issues like dementia). It seems that caffeine may well have beneficial effects, so why not have at least one cup a day? You’ll feel more awake and can justify it by saying you’re reducing your future risks. That is just perfect.