Alzheimer's disease (AD) is one of the most feared diseases in the world, affecting 5 million people in the United States alone. New research suggests that the power to prevent this debilitating illness may lie within the foods we eat. A recent study demonstrates how a dietary combination of 3 key nutrients might create a potent potion against this frightening ailment.
What is Alzheimer's disease?
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory, thinking skills and over time, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks of daily living. Symptoms of AD usually first appear after age 60. Although there are some medical treatments to slow the progression of this disease, no cure currently exists.
Go here to read about early signs of Alzheimer's.
How Alzheimer's affects the brain
In a healthy brain, messages are sent back and forth between neural cells (neurons) via connecting tissue cables (synapses). An overabundance of amyloid plaques (outside the neurons) and/or neurofibrillary tangles (inside the neurons) are the most common features of Alzheimer's disease. Comprised of different proteins, plaques and tangles impair healthy neuron function and cause nerve cells to eventually die off, damaging the brain's intricate web of communication. This damage continues to spread over time, causing overall shrinkage of the brain.
Alzheimer's research study
A revelatory study on lowering the risk of Alzheimer's disease by ingesting certain nutrients was published in the April 2010 issue of Archives of Neurology. The research, based on the dietary information of 2,148 subjects over age 65, suggests that a diet combining key superfoods may actually prevent Alzheimer's. The study is exciting since it comes on the heels of a recent National Institutes of Health panel highlighting the lack of evidence for the effect of mental stimulation, exercise and individual dietary supplements in preventing the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
The nutrients identified - folate, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids - are all believed to reduce inflammation, which has been shown to play a role in Alzheimer's disease. The process of inflammation involves activating the immune system in response to infection. However when this process does not shut down chronic inflammation occurs and can lead to chronic diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Here are the 3 key nutrients that form the powerful anti-Alzheimer's elixir, along with the superfoods rich in them. All of these may also protect the brain from strokes which can also make it more vulnerable to Alzheimer's.
Folate, a water-soluble B vitamin, reduces circulating levels of homocysteine. High levels of this amino acid in the blood have been linked to reducing Alzheimer's disease, creating plaque that is less toxic, or inflammatory. Leafy greens such as kale and spinach are high in folate. Black-eyed peas, great northern white beans and other legumes are also rich in this valuable nutrient.
Because of its strong antioxidant effect, vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin, may also help fight the formation of plaque buildup seen in Alzheimer's patients. Nuts such as almonds and hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes and olive oil are all foods rich in vitamin E.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids s are believed to increase production of the protein LR11. High levels of this protein have been linked to preventing the toxic plaques in Alzheimer's from being made, whereas low levels are believed to be a factor in causing the disease. Cold-water fish such as salmon and sardines are high in omega-3s, and so is flaxseed oil. Many nuts such as walnuts and almonds contain high levels of omega-3s and also vitamin E, making them solid choices that do double duty in the fight against Alzheimer's.