There are certain nutrients that can assist in preserving or enhancing your brain function and its health. The role of certain dietary components in the prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) has been receiving increasing support . There are certain dietary factors that appear to increase the risk of developing AD including excessive alcohol, saturated fatty acids and a high caloric intake. On the other hand, fish, antioxidants and methionine rich proteins are likely to provide protective effects against AD . This may explain the differing prevalence of AD amongst countries with varying diets.
It is very difficult to study the direct link between diet and AD so this blog will focus on the likely positive and negative foods and nutrients in the pathogenesis of AD.
Brain benefiting nutrients
The table below summarises some of the nutrients that have been studied in regards to their link with brain health. The table lists the food, the component that exhibits the benefits to brain health and in what way it benefits its health or function.
|Brain food||Active principle||Effect/ function|
|Blueberries||Flavonoids||Cognition, memory, and coordination|
|Fish||Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA)||Reduced amyloid* pathology by 70% (mice)|
|Turmeric||Curcumin||Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-amyloid|
|Green tea||EGCG (polyphenol)||Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory|
|Red wine||Resveratrol||Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory|
|Ginkgo biloba||Flavonoids and terpenoids||Antioxidant|
|Fruits and vegetables||Vitamin A (retinol)||Antioxidant|
Table sourced from ‘Neonutrition and Alzheimer’s disease’
* Amyloids are a type of protein that can build up and cause plaques within arteries of the brain. This can increase the risk of developing dementia or haemorrhagic stroke.
The role of antioxidants:
Oxidative stress is one of the potential processes leading to AD. It is therefore fitting that antioxidant rich foods were associated with a decreased risk of AD.
The role of turmeric:
Turmeric is a spice that is widely used in India for both meals and as medicine. Interestingly, the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in India is 4.4 fold less than in America . It is hypothesised that the decreased prevalence of AD is due in part to the consumption of turmeric, because of its curcumin content.
Alzheimer’s disease results in a chronic inflammatory response of the central nervous system – as seen in some disease or head injury. Extended use of anti-inflammatory non-steroidal drugs, ibuprofen and statins have reduced the inflammatory response in AD . However, these drugs can be toxic to the liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal tracts. As a result, there has been research in to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that will have the same effects on the brain but without the damage. This is where the antioxidant curcumin can help!
What exactly is curcumin? It is a free radical scavenger (free radicals damage our cells) that is found in yellow spice and exhibits anti-inflammatory effects. It also plays a role in decreasing the impact of insoluble and soluble amyloid plaque that can be found in many affected regions of the brain . In mice, curcumin has been shown to decrease oxidative stress and inflammation . These are just some of the benefits but there are more!
Image sourced from‘Neonutrition and Alzheimer’s disease’
Whilst there is not enough evidence to say for certain that some foods prevent Alzheimer’s disease, incorporating the above items will only be beneficial. However, the red wine probably isn’t necessary except on occasion – we can receive enough antioxidant from healthier foods and beverages that will provide additional nutrients.
- Ramesh B, Sathyanarayana Rao T, Prakasam, Sambamurti, Jagannatha Rao K. Neuronutrition and Alzheimer’s Disease. J Alzheimers Disease. 2010 Jan; 19(4):1123-1139.
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This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist.
If you have questions about diet and brain health, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.