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Archive for July, 2018

News reports and advertising alert us to the connection between many types of foods and health. Most recognize that too much sodium (salt) may increase blood pressure. We know that obesity may make us more susceptible to many health conditions including type 2 diabetes and cancer. Certain types of fats have been linked to heart disease. We don’t hear as much about the effect of foods on our brains. Do certain diets make a difference? For the next few weeks, I will share current research on the impact of what we eat and memory.

As we age, every little slip in remembering someone’s name or misplacing our car keys may stir fear and panic. While a few blunders here and there may be no cause for worry about developing dementia, or worse, full-blown Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), memory loss is real. More than five million Americans now live with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), a common form of dementia. What if certain foods or diets could make a difference? Would we pay attention? For several years, research has sought answers. We now know that the foods we eat can make a difference.

Dr. Lisa Moscone, author of Brain Food, compared brain imaging scans of healthy dementia-free 30- to 60-year-olds. One group ate the typical Western diet of high saturated fats, red meat, and refined sugar. The other group followed a Mediterranean diet which consisted of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein such as fish or chicken. Good fats (mono- or poly unsaturated) like avocado and olive oil replaced saturated fats, and the diet limited red meats and added sugars. Scans at the beginning of the study showed that those who ate Western-style foods had more beta-amyloid deposits and less brain activity, both indicators of early development of dementia.

Follow-up studies two or more years later revealed increases in beta-amyloid deposits and reduced active energy levels in those who ate Western diets, regardless of other potential risk factors for AD, i.e. sex, age, and a specific gene linked to AD. Changes in brain scan images showed up in areas of the brain most likely to be affected by AD.

What does this study tell us? Diet does make a difference. What is more important, to modify our diet in younger years with the potential of improved memory in later years or eat what we want, a Western diet, and wonder why we are so forgetful? Is our priority to eat whatever we want with no regard for the future or had we rather make a few changes to improve our odds of reaching old age with our brains mentally intact? Alzheimer’s Disease is a devastating condition. Even if we aren’t concerned about our future mental health, is it fair to our potential caregivers―children, spouses or friends―not to take care of ourselves? Diet may not prevent all memory loss, but it can make a difference for us and our families.

 

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