Nutrition, Alzheimer's and Dementia - Now is the time to Take Control!
Although this site was created to offer guidelines for the mitigation of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and dementia, it is simultaneously meant as a guide for vastly better general health.
Unprecedented research is confirming that many ailments and conditions in humans are food and environment related. There is an enormous and growing amount of evidence that brain function and health are closely tied to our diet. Also of importance is our lifestyle, including exercise and other activities. Some of the evidence is outlined on this site.
While age is the # 1 risk factor for developing dementia, there is growing evidence that the strong association with increasing age can at least be partially explained by a lifetime of cumulative exposure to different risk factors. Thus, the treatment, mitigation and even possible delayed onset of Alzheimer's Disease (AD), the most common type of dementia, involves a multi-disciplinary approach, including among other things, early recognition, genetic testing, emotional and physical support, control of environment, activities and medications. Recent research revealed that nutrition is an important and often overlooked component of AD /dementia care.
To create dietary and nutritional awareness, we have coined the term Dementia Diet™ with the understanding that although there is no specific diet to treat dementia per se, there is a growing compendium of knowledge about nutrition and AD care.
Compelling evidence from laboratories all over the world indicates that we are eating too much food, especially harmful foods. The so-called "Western diet" is the biggest killer in the world, and more and more countries are adopting it. It is known that certain areas of the brain, such as the hippocampus and parietal cortex, are vulnerable to a poor diet. These are the same areas affected in AD
In fact, "nutritional medicine" is becoming a new field of practice. As one very prominent and published medical doctor Dr. Mark Hyman has stated, if "you are suffering... from Alzheimer's disease, it it likely that nutritional deficiencies are one of the primary causes".
It is also widely believed that inflammation is a major contributory factor to AD and other illnesses. Anti-inflammatory foods and supplements are critical components
of healthy living.
Are We What We Eat?
We are what we eat is a concept that has been around for many hundreds of years. There is mounting evidence that this is indeed true, as confirmed by scientists and researchers in study after study.
Early man ate mostly fish, meat, fruits and vegetables as opposed to the cereals, grains and dairy we eat today. Many of the newer foods created by the food industry over the past few decades are foreign to our DNA and consequently potentially dangerous to our health. Humans evolved in a time before the 80,000+ toxic industrial chemicals found in our environment today were introduced into our world, before electromagnetic radiation was everywhere and before we polluted our skies, lakes, rivers, oceans and teeth with mercury, lead and other harmful metals.
Our food industry has created highly processed, nutrient deficient foods laden with sugars and chemical additives. (In 2011 The Center for Consumer Freedom, a front group for the food industry, put $600,000 ads in major newspapers trying to convince us that the obesity epidemic is hype). Add to this the modern use of pesticides, insecticides, antibiotics, hormones, environmental toxins, genetic engineering and mass marketing techniques and it's no wonder there are so many chronic illnesses and epidemics of previously not very common conditions (AD, dementia, autism, depression, diabetes etc.)
Studies have indicated a lower risk of dementia and improvement of memory are widely associated with a diet that includes a steady source of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, unprocessed whole grains and certain types of fish.
Conversely foods to be avoided include sugars, toxic fats, red meats and most soy products. Organic foods are highly recommended to avoid the toxins found in traditionally grown food that include pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.
One of the symptoms of dementia is often decreased appetite, which makes it near impossible to consume a full and healthy meal on a regular basis. To this end nutritional supplements not only play a vital role in care of someone with AD, but interestingly, as learned, just about everyone else!
Although no study is 100% conclusive due to general lack of specific and measurable bio-markers, the goal of the Dementia Diet™ is to assimilate and disseminate the latest evidence in dietary and nutritional research that supports the concept that indeed, it might be possible to slow down, or in some cases even reverse, some of the effects of AD and dementia. Furthermore, it might even be possible to prevent or slow down the onset of AD.
Nevertheless, it is a given that AD will inevitably progress over time; there is no "cure".
The Dementia Diet™ is presented as a guideline to help one make healthy and rational nutritional choices. It is meant to be more of a nutritional road map than a rigid diet, consisting of general principles, food groups, vitamins and supplements that have been shown to improve memory and brain functions as described by researchers from all over the world. Many of the words, concepts and terms we use are in the Glossary and Lifestyle
Primary goals for AD management should include:
- mitigation, as in slowing down, or possibly reversing its progression, particularly in the early and moderate stages, before advancement renders victims totally dysfunctional and unresponsive to any treatment modalities.
Achievements of these goals may very well be enhanced by appropriate nutrition.
We are aware that not all people, for one reason or another, will be able to adopt or adhere to some or any of these guidelines. We are likewise convinced that awareness is the first step.
Finally, it is incumbent of the support team and caregivers to check with the treating AD/dementia physician if any changes from current diet/eating habits or supplements are contemplated.
Now that there is general agreement about the foods that we should eat and avoid, there is a new field of research named Nutrigenomics that suggests it may not be all that simple.
Nutrigenomics is the study of how foods affect our genes and how individual genetic differences can affect the way we respond to nutrients in the foods we eat. Everyone has their own genetic code or genotype. It is known that people with certain types of genetic architecture have different responses to diets. "One diet fits all" is no longer a working model. More research has to be done, but in the future, your genotype will inform you whether you have the propensity for certain chronic diseases, so that you will be able to modify your diet and lifestyle accordingly. One prime example that exists today is the APO E Gene Diet, especially with regards to an AD gene.
In the future it is likely that new, nutritionally designed genomic health products will be available to help sustain your health and prevent the diseases and conditions to which you might be uniquely vulnerable.
One word of caution is in order: genetically modified foods today are not designed for the health of the end user but rather for efficient productivity by farmers and growers. There is little to no research in humans on possible deleterious effects of altering the DNA form our external sources.