Is Alzheimer’s Disease Linked to Diet?

Alzheimer's Disease

If you think Alzheimer’s disease—one of the most dreaded and devastating illnesses—is an untreatable neurological condition, think again. A growing body of research suggests that there may be a link between diet and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, studies show that consuming certain foods and types of diets are associated with increased risk for Alzheimer’s, while other foods and eating habits can improve brain health and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In this blog, we will explore the connection between diet and Alzheimer’s disease and introduce you to 6 foods to avoid and 5 foods to include to enhance brain health and memory.

Studies show that consuming certain foods and types of diets are associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s, while other foods and eating habits can improve brain health and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Click To Tweet

WHAT IS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that is associated with cognitive decline and memory loss. More than 6 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s, and experts predict that number will increase nearly threefold by 2050.

Many people believe Alzheimer’s disease is genetic and that if you have the genes associated with increased risk for Alzheimer’s, you’re doomed to develop the disease. This is not true. Although there is a genetic component to the condition, your lifestyle also plays a role in your level of risk. In fact, emerging research shows that Alzheimer’s is a lifestyle disease, similar to type 2 diabetes or heart disease. This means your every day habits can either increase or decrease your risk of developing the condition whether or not you have a genetic predisposition.

HOW IS DIET LINKED TO ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?

One of the most important lifestyle factors impacting the risk for Alzheimer’s disease is diet. Eating the wrong foods raises your risk while consuming brain-healthy foods lowers it. Every day, you can make a choice to eat foods that put your memory at risk or that protect it. It’s up to you.

Recent studies suggest that our diet may be a key factor in preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. An “Alzheimer’s prevention diet” or “memory diet” may have an impact on the biological mechanisms that underlie Alzheimer’s, such as oxidative stress and inflammation. Additionally, this type of diet may reduce other risk factors for Alzheimer’s, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

Furthermore, research is beginning to focus on the connection between the gut and aging-related processes that are linked to Alzheimer’s. For example, a 2022 study shows that gut dysbiosis has been linked to pathologies seen in Alzheimer’s disease and may be a risk factor for the condition. In contrast, another study published in 2022 found that diets that support the gut microbiota provide protective benefits against the development of Alzheimer’s.

6 FOODS THAT INCREASE THE RISK OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

1. High-fat dairy

To protect your memory, eliminate ice cream, whipped cream, cheese, half and half, butter, and other fat-laden dairy products. High-fat dairy was associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease in a study in the Archives of Neurology.

2. Processed meat

Ditch the hot dogs, salami, and sausages. A 2021 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating just 25 grams of processed meats each day was linked to a 52% increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and a 44% uptick in the risk of developing any form of dementia.

3. High-glycemic foods

Love those pretzels, cookies, or cakes? They don’t love you or your memory! In a study from researchers at the Mayo Clinic, individuals who consumed a diet high in refined carbohydrates—such as foods like breakfast cereal, white bread, pasta, potatoes, and white rice—had a 400 percent increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

4. High-sugar foods

Consuming sugary fares like candy, cupcakes, or sweetened sodas or energy drinks can rob you of your memory. Research in a 2022 issue of Nutritional Neuroscience concluded that excessive intake of sugar significantly increases the risk of Alzheimer’s in older women. Eating just an additional 10 grams of sugar per day (about 2.4 teaspoons) was associated with a 30-40% increased risk for Alzheimer’s.

5. Trans fats

These unhealthy fats can be memory killers. According to a 2019 study in the journal Neurology, people with higher blood levels of trans fats are 52%-74% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias compared with those who had the lowest levels. Artificial trans fats are banned in the U.S., but they used to be commonly found in fried foods, pie crusts, crackers, margarine, and more. Some foods may still contain trace amounts of these bad fats, so it’s best to avoid ultra-processed foods.

6. Excessive alcohol

Many people drink to celebrate life—weddings, graduations, job promotions—but there’s nothing to celebrate when it comes to the connection between excessive drinking and Alzheimer’s. In fact, one study in The Lancet concluded that heavy drinking is the single biggest modifiable risk factor for all forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. This 2019 analysis of over 1 million people reported that heavy alcohol use is also linked to early-onset forms of the disease, which is when the disease affects people before the age of 65.

5 FOODS TO EAT TO HELP PREVENT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

1. Leafy greens

Fuel up on kale, spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, collard greens, and more. A 2018 study in Neurology found that consumption of these healthy greens was associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline.

2. Berries

Include blueberries, strawberries, and other berries in your diet. Research in the Annals of Neurology shows that berries high in flavonoids, especially anthocyanidins, enhance cognition and slow the rate of cognitive decline.

3. Fish

Eating fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial in the prevention of dementias, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Numerous studies have found that people who eat the most fish have lower risks for cognitive decline compared with those who eat the least amount of fish.

4. Nuts

Want a snack that can help protect your brain? Reach for a few walnuts, macadamia nuts, or almonds. One study found that nuts are part of a healthy diet that can reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

5. Extra-virgin olive oil

When you’re looking for salad dressing, sprinkle some extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) on your greens. Researchers from Spain found that consumption of EVOO was associated with improved cognitive function in individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

If you want to protect your memory and lower your risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, eat a diet that is filled with brain-healthy foods. If you’re having memory issues or have noticed a cognitive decline, get an evaluation to assess your memory and determine the root cause. Brain SPECT imaging is a powerful neuroimaging tool that can help identify brain patterns seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

Memory loss and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

10 Comments »

  1. Do you know anything about night mares
    PTS type?? My husband was a fireman. Fire marshal and I think it’s all related.
    He wakes screaming kicking talking etc

    Comment by Sheryl ek — June 7, 2023 @ 4:12 AM

  2. I wonder how the heavy drinking effects you after you quit? I used to drink heavily but quit about a year ago. my short term memory and focus is horrible now but has not gotten worse over the year. I know that you can get alcohol dementia when drinking heavily but I wonder if that still happens after quitting and if you have not gotten it during drinking.

    Comment by Sandro — June 7, 2023 @ 6:06 AM

  3. your leading question is still the question, "Is Alzheimer’s Disease Linked to Diet?" Diet and the effect on the human being is way more complicated than a few studies. We are all individual and we ALL react differently to diet. This is fraught with maybe, possibly, and could be's. Therefore BS.

    Comment by Brian baird — June 7, 2023 @ 7:08 AM

  4. I recently read an article that talked about drugs for constipation like Milk of Magnesia and even fiber type items and how they have found a connection between constant use of them and dementia. I am thinking this is because it disturbs and maybe even destroys not only food absorption but the gut biome. My mother was a daily user from a young age of Milk of Magnesia as she always felt she was not able to go. she was also a huge smoker until age 75. What she ended up doing was changing the way her intestines worked even causing a section to become unable to function so she felt constipated as it took longer because those muscles had atrophied. She at about age 70 was showing signs of generalized dementia. It actually dramatically worsened after she quit smoking. She knew who her spouse/children /grandchild were but anyone after age 70 she could not seem to remember such as her great grand children. She died at the age of 88 from COPD complications. After reading that article I do believe that played a role along with her poor diet and eating habits. It is interesting how dementia is called type 3 diabetes and yet even in a memory care unit a diet high in carbs and sugar/juice was the norm instead of more veggies and protein. There is so much more that needs to be done regarding diet and health. Thank you for the work you do. So many Medical people and social workers know little to nothing about diet or brain health or TBI.

    Comment by Alicia Kardell — June 7, 2023 @ 8:58 AM

  5. Alzheimer’s prevention

    Comment by Tammy — June 7, 2023 @ 9:44 AM

  6. Thank you for sharing such a valuable information. I’m in my 60s and I am very conscientious of the foods I eat. With all the foods that are out there it’s hard to be 100% junk free. I know it’s a matter of making good choices and your articles help me do that. Thank you!!

    Comment by Silvia Woodward — June 7, 2023 @ 7:12 PM

  7. I can certainly attest that during the weeks when I fall off the proverbial wagon the following week I struggle more mentally. I'm a believer!
    Now if I could only figure out how to get my children to understand and believe!

    Comment by David George — June 8, 2023 @ 8:57 AM

  8. I've worked for 10 years in a nursing home that looks after people with dementia and I've noticed that they all have one thing in common. That is, they all prefer processed foods, especially the sweet kind, no matter what else is on offer.
    I try to encourage them to eat fruit instead of biscuits as snacks but the general attitude from the staff there, is that they haven't got much in lifc to enjoy now, so they might as well have what they like even if it's not good for them.
    I haven't noticed that many of them have been smokers or drinkers but maybe that's because other smoking and drinking diseases have killed many people, before they can reach their later years.

    Comment by Kerry Walker — June 9, 2023 @ 1:41 PM

  9. I wish they would sort the results at least by blood type. Different blood types respond differently to foods. If there is a common denominator among the listed food associations, is it inflammation? Is the inflammation an immune response? Do we have an immune system in the gut just for this purpose? Do we have an immune system circulating in the blood? Does it vary by type? Yes. The studies on red meat and heart disease found that the incidence of problems was higher among type A (O's digest it better and use it to build muscle, so that would be expected; A's do well as vegetarians; O's don't). The above list may affect some more than other, although I suspect we probably all need the greens!

    Comment by Sandra — June 10, 2023 @ 1:49 PM

  10. excellent information!

    Comment by Douglas Morris — June 25, 2023 @ 6:13 AM

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