An article written in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (1999;1:197-201) gives an overview of some of the dietary factors involved with Alzheimer’s disease. Oxidative stress and inflammation are contributing factors. Although total dietary fat is a contributing factor, but diets rich in monosaturated fatty acids, like the Mediterranean diet, have been shown to slow cognitive decline. Similarly, eating fish and taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements also lowers the chance of developing the disease. Antioxidants, like vitamin E, have been shown to reduce the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Another inflammatory marker, homocysteine, has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin B12, folic acid and B6 can all help to keep homocysteine levels low.
Antioxidants are especially important. The Journal of the American Medical Association (June 26, 2002;287(24):3261-3263) supports the idea that oxidative stress plays a role in Alzheimer’s disease. The article notes two observational studies that showed higher dietary intake of vitamins A and C to be associated with a decreased risk for developing the disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids may play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Research appearing in Family Practice News (July 1, 2005:47) looked at 935 subjects aged 65 or over. Of the group, 153 had cognitive impairment without dementia, 57 had dementia and the remaining 725 were free of dementia or any cognitive problems. The serum omega-3 fatty acid concentration was the lowest in the group with dementia, and highest in the group with normal cognition. Other research appearing in the Archives of Neurology (2006; 63(11)” 1545-50) found that high levels of plasma DHA and phosphatidylcholine were associated with a reduced risk for dementia.
Paying attention to diet, especially intake of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, is an important step in preventing dementia. In the US there are about 360,000 new cases of Alzheimer’s disease each year. That number is expected to triple in the next 40 years. Reducing the number of new cases, and delaying the onset of new cases with nutrition can be of tremendous social and economic benefit.