Research studies suggest there is a strong link between diet and the risk of dementia. The high consumption of certain foods, particularly foods that contain hydrogenated fats, usually presents the risk of developing dementia; while the consumption of unsaturated or good fats presents a lower risk of developing cognitive dysfunction and dementia.
A diet filled with inflammatory foods, such as saturated fats, processed foods, marbled red meat, carbohydrates high in fats and sugar and other related food ingredients presents a strong link between loss of cognitive functioning and the onset of dementia, Alzheimer’s and other related diseases. There are other factors involved in the connection between diet and dementia.
Food Connections with Diet and Dementia
There are certain specific diet plans that contain foods that are thought to improve cognitive functioning. These foods improve and slow down the effects of dementia and other related diseases.
The Mediterranean diet is one that improves cognitive functioning. It consists of:
- Fish (oily fish such as salmon, ocean perch, shrimp, sardines, scallops, herring, tuna, whitefish and flounder)
- Legumes (chickpeas/garbanzo beans, peanuts, black beans, green peas, lima beans, kidney beans, black eyed peas and navy beans
- Olive oil (main cooking fat)
And smaller amounts of:
- Dairy products (unprocessed cheeses like feta, Brie, ricotta and Parmesan and plain yogurt and Greek yogurt)
- Lean poultry (chicken and turkey) and lean red meat (such as loin and round cut beef and 93% lean ground beef)
- Red wine in moderation
Research associated with the Mediterranean diet suggests that cognitive functioning and dementia can improve with an appropriate and healthy diet.
Another diet that aids in the prevention of dementia is the MIND diet. It’s quite similar to the Mediterranean diet but it centers on consuming green leafy vegetables along with
- Other vegetables
- Whole grains
- Olive oil
- Red wine
The diet emphasizes these foods because of the importance of their nutrient content and their relationship to the prevention of cognitive decline and dementia. Research and clinical studies suggest that both the MIND and Mediterranean diets improve cognitive functioning as well as heart and brain health.
Will Supplements Help?
Will supplementing with vitamins, minerals and other supplements counteract the need for a special diet and is there proof that supplements can fight dementia? The following vitamins have proven effective with dementia patients, though the work of researchers doesn’t provide complete confirmation on whether supplementation can replace a healthy diet or heal dementia and other diseases. The vitamins and minerals that appear to offer cognitive benefits include the following; however, an important first step is to seek the advice of a health care provider on supplementation.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Vitamins and Other Supplements
The following vitamins and other supplements have shown promise with cognitive functioning and dementia. They include:
- Vitamins E and C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12 and folic acid
- Phosphatidylserine (naturally occurring brain compound)
What Foods Increase Risks of Dementia?
Evidence has shown that a poor diet increases the risk of dementia. Consumption of processed foods, junk food, fast food, unhealthy fats and sugar, refined carbohydrates and any related foods seem to present an increase in the risk for cognitive decline and dementia. Those who choose to eat highly processed carbohydrates have a better chance of developing dementia. Other processed foods that appear to present the same risk include:
- Canned/packaged meat products
- Refined grains
- White bread
- White flour bagels
- White/corn tortillas
- White pasta
- Artificial sweeteners
- Pizza dough
- A number of breakfast cereals
Steps that Promote Brain Health
Maintaining brain health is important, and in order for it to work well there are routine steps to take that include:
- Avoiding smoking
- Exercising regularly, particularly aerobic exercise
- Eating a balanced diet—such as the Mediterranean diet—that’s rich in vegetables, fruits and lean protein, (particularly protein sources that containing omega-3 fatty acids)
- Being active socially
- Maintaining proper weight
- Caring for your mental health
- Using your memory skills on a daily basis
- Avoiding head injuries
- Treating hearing loss
- Limiting consumption of alcohol
Inflammation and Dementia
Research shows that memory decline can be linked to inflammation, particularly in the gut area. Studies show there is an association between the overall gut microbiome and dementia. The microbiome is a grouping of all the microbes that include bacteria, viruses, fungi and the genes that live in the gut area. Though small, these microbes are important to overall health. There is a difference in the gut microbiome of those with dementia compared to those without it.
Those with dementia showed a higher number of gut microbes that are associated with dementia. Other studies show that individuals with dementia have inferior microbiomes. Inconsistencies in gut microbes can promote areas of plaque in the brain and contribute to the cause of dementia, Alzheimer’s and related diseases. In order to improve gut health, there are lifestyle changes that can increase gut health that includes not only healthy eating but also exercising properly, managing stress and sleeping well.
Links between Diet and Dementia
The link between diet and dementia is an interesting correlation that has a basis in scientific research. Whether it involves special diets, exercise programs, supplementation, inflammation-related factors, other health conditions such as heart and vascular diseases, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, these factors have their place in dealing with cognitive decline and help with dementia, Alzheimer’s and other related diseases.
Scientific research will continue to delve into the different causes of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but in the meantime, the connection between a person’s diet and the risk of cognitive decline appears to be a good starting point for anyone experiencing the onset of cognitive decline, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.