Brain Foods: What to Eat to Protect against Alzheimer’s Disease

New research shows that what you eat can play a role in staving off Alzheimer’s disease?

Credit: The Ewan

Tomatoes are one of several foods known to protect against disease

It’s possible that by protecting against stroke, our brains may be less vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.

One of the most common questions I’m often asked by patients is, “Are there any foods I can eat to help prevent or treat the problem?”

This is a tough one to answer because it’s unlikely that one food, supplement or vitamin alone can help prevent the onset or decrease the risk of disease. We eat meals with many combinations of foods and it’s more likely that it’s these nutrients taken together that help to protect our health.

So it’s exciting when a study comes along that looks at the question of which dietary patterns are beneficial. New research published in the Archives of Neurology examined the issue of food combination and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Food Combination and Alzheimer’s Diasease

In the latest study, researchers followed more than 2,000 people in New York who were free of Alzheimer’s disease when the study began, collecting information about their diets over an average of four years.

The researchers were able to identify a dietary pattern that was associated with a 38 per cent reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

This diet was found to be rich in:

  • Olive oil-based salad dressings
  • Nuts
  • Tomatoes
  • Chicken/turkey

  • Cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts)

  • Other dark green leafy vegetables

  • Fish

These same folks also ate less red meat, organ meat, butter and fewer high-fat dairy products. 

Nutrients that Protect against Disease

Broken down into specific nutrients, the diet was found to be rich in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, vitamin E, B12 and folate (as well as lower in saturated fatty acids) — nutrients shown to be beneficial to the cardiovascular system.

In the research paper, the authors explained: “…vitamin B12 and folate are homocysteine-related vitamins that may have an impact on Alzheimer’s disease via their ability of reducing circulating homocysteine levels, vitamin E might prevent Alzheimer’s disease via its strong antioxidant effect and fatty acids may be related to dementia and cognitive function through atherosclerosis, thrombosis or inflammation via an effect on brain development and membrane functioning or via accumulation of beta-amyloid.”

It’s also possible that by protecting against stroke, our brains may be less vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease. This food combination is also similar to the Mediterranean diet, which has previously been associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s.

The potential implication of this study is far from insignificant when it comes to prevention. Research looking at the benefits of individual nutrients or foods has been inconsistent, so identifying an eating pattern that’s strongly protective against Alzheimer’s is not only exciting news — it’s something we can all try to incorporate into our daily lives.

Originally published in TV Week. For daily updates, subscribe to the free TV Week e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.