Reducing our Alzheimer’s risk must start early in life in order to make meaningful changes. Changing our eating habits to fight Alzheimer’s Dementia is the most effective way to limit our risk. One of the cornerstones of Alzheimer’s Prevention (AP) is reducing inflammation in the body. Reducing Alzheimer’s risk and lowering inflammation can be achieved by a variety of means. Losing weight, limiting calories, consuming a more ketogenic diet, evening fasting, consuming more high quality proteins, hormone balancing, consuming anti-inflammatory foods and exercise can all have a profound effect on preventing Alzheimer’s Disease and lowering inflammation.
Weight Loss/Calorie Restriction
Losing weight is a meaningful way to reduce inflammation in our bodies. In fact one study found that obese people had a statistically significant reduction in the size of their brain’s hippocampal area (the part of the brain that stores memories). Additionally, over weight individuals are more likely to develop diabetes and high blood pressure. We know that these two disease directly increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. Obese individuals also have more inflammation. One theory support the notion that starved fats cells will send out inflammatory mediators, called cytokines, to promote inflammation and angiogensis. Thus, the persistent inflammation that is seen in obese individuals is a result of fats cells asking for more vascularization.
The Okinawa Centenarian Study (an ongoing study of centenarians in the Okinawa Prefecture of Japan) found that long-lived people consume fewer calories (about 1900 calories/day) than the average American (about 2,600 calories). Lowering calorie intake appears to reduce beta-amyloid particles in the brain. Beta-amyloid plaques are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s Disease. A 2012 Mayo Clinic study found that the people who ate more than 2,142 calories a day had 2x the risk of developing memory loss and cognitive impairment. Calorie restriction also lowers insulin, body fat, inflammation and blood pressure all of which can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Less Carbs, More Ketones Please
When you consume a lot of carbs, your body and brain will use glucose to keep the running. When Carbs are restricted, your body generates ketones from body fat which are used to fuel the body. Ketones are a more efficient source of fuel for the brain. A ketogenic diet is recommended for some patients with Alzheimer’s disease because ketones produce fewer waste products and put less stress on damaged brain cells. Various studies indicate mild improvements in cognitive function on a ketogenic diet. Over time, limiting carbohydrates has many benefits like decreasing the development of insulin resistance and reducing insulin spikes and improving glucose control.
Extreme fasts may not be recommended for most people but limiting food consumption after 6pm may have some benefits in Alzheimer’s Prevention and decreasing inflammation. First, during the night when we are sleeping our bodies are busy restoring tissues, fixing DNA, and replenishing enzymes. Food that we consume late at night will most likely be stored as our bodies are busy doing other functions at night not digesting foods which will lead to weight gain. Make a habit out of trying to go 12 hours or more without eating. By fasting for more than 12 hours, our bodies will make more ketones (which is beneficial for the brain) and our bodies will have less inflammation (because of less oxidative stress created by food metabolism).
Studies have shown that testosterone supplementation can decrease vascular resistance and improve mental fog in both men and women. A study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease along with various other studies demonstrate a link between Alzheimer’s disease and low testosterone levels. In 2004, Wayne State University investigators examined testosterone levels in men enrolled in a large aging study. They found that every 50% increase in free testosterone in the bloodstream was associated with a 26% decrease in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland which helps regulate sleep-wake cycles. As we age, melatonin production declines and reduced levels of melatonin are associated with cognitive decline. Melatonin has been shown to be a powerful anti-oxidant and impedes the production of b-amyloid production in the brain. Age matched control studies have shown lower melatonin levels in Alzheimer’s patients when compared with healthy controls. In animal studies, researchers showed that melatonin improved cognitive function, reduced oxidative injury and decreased deposition of B-amyloid (Cheng 2006).
Various studies have shown the foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like fish and nuts, can actually lower the risk of cognitive decline as we age. Additionally, grass fed beef will be richer in omega-3’s than factory raised animals because of the type of feed these animals are given in feed lots.
Turmeric is a spice used in a lot of Indian cooking which has been shown to reduce inflammation. Turmeric contains a compound called Curcumin which is responsible for the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of Turmeric. I recommend using a Curcumin supplement taken with meals because Curcumin is fat-soluble and therefore absorption will be enhanced with fat in foods.
Try the above strategies to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and reduce inflammation. Alzheimer’s Disease has been called type III diabetes and so reducing carbohydrate consumption, keeping blood sugar well-controlled and keeping your weight under control will all help to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.