Alzheimer’s disease commonly develops in older Australians, causing loss of memory and affecting quality of life. The pathology of the disease affects the brain, causing damage to nerve cells, and while treatments are available, there is no known cure.
The good news is that lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s later in life can be as easy as including certain foods in your regular diet. Since prevention is currently your best chance to avoid chronic memory loss, here are some delicious things that have been shown by clinical trials to prevent memory loss:
This common spice is derived from the roots of the turmeric plant, which is a close relative of ginger. Curcumin, which is found in high doses in turmeric, can also be bought as a supplement and has been shown to not only prevent neurodegeneration but even to reverse it.
One of the ways that scientists can track the onset of Alzheimer’s disease is by looking for the formation of plaques within brain tissue, specifically the so-called “beta amyloid” plaques. Amazingly, studies have used curcumin to successfully break down existing plaque structures in the brains of mice. Although we already know that there is a genetic component to Alzheimer’s, this seems to match the observation that countries where turmeric is a regular part of the local cuisine experience lower incidence rates of the disease.
2. Green Tea
Widely known for its antioxidant activities and anti-cancer effects, the catechin molecules in green tea (such as EGCG, or epigallocatechin-3-gallate) have also attracted scientific interest by protecting against damage to nerve cells.
Although you probably already know that green tea contains beneficial compounds, EGCG in particular has been shown to protect the brains of mice, and a 2017 study went a step further, identifying a possible mechanism of anti-Alzheimer’s activity.
3. Olive Oil
Beginning with studies into the low prevalence of heart disease in Mediterranean countries, the role of extra virgin olive oil in health has been a primary focus in nutrition studies for decades. But it was only recently that this high-quality source of plant fats was discovered to reduce the rate of brain cell degeneration seen in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients, preserving the cognition of a laboratory strain of mouse that ordinarily develops Alzheimer’s-like symptoms.
While it’s unknown whether other oils provide similar health benefits, extra virgin olive oil seems to signal the body to break down harmful plaques in the brain, leading to better preservation of brain function and memory. When discussing the findings of the study, lead researcher Domenico Pratico encouraged everyone to add extra virgin olive oil to their diets, and also dryly remarked: “Given that it’s been consumed for at least 2000 years, I do not anticipate any side effects”.
An honorable mention must also be given to coconut oil, which has also been shown to break down beta-amyloid plaques in the brain and can often be an appropriate alternative to using animal fats in cooking.
If you’re noticing that you’ve seen a few of these foods before, in other articles about antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients, then don’t worry. You’re not losing your mind… neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are inextricably linked with chronic inflammation. Or put another way, consuming foods rich in phytonutrients will almost certainly prevent the development of many diseases at the same time.
Berries contain large amounts of antioxidants like quercetin, which has been shown to have a neuroprotective effect on the brain. Quercetin is one of the pigment molecules that give berries their dark colour, and is also found in leafy greens, tomatoes and some grains. It reduces inflammation and aside from Alzheimer’s, it’s also being studied in the treatment of cancer, heart disease and a range of autoimmune disorders including allergies.
Loading up on nutrition will lead to all kinds of health benefits, and berries pack an extraordinary punch in this regard.
5. Oranges, and Other Citrus Fruits
If a recent study in Japan is anything to go by, you might like to include more citrus fruit in your weekly meal plan.
Tracking over 13,000 healthy older Japanese participants, results showed that the more oranges eaten per week, the lower the incidence of neurodegenerative disease. This applies even if you already eat one per week – stepping up to 3 per week seems to have a beneficial effect. While this study did not isolate the specific phytonutrients responsible for the neuroprotective effect, previous research has suggested that a broad class of compounds called flavonoids might be important. While citrus fruit has its own specific flavonoids, many of which are antioxidants, these compounds are found not only in oranges but also in a huge variety of natural plant-based foods, including many of those mentioned above.
Taking better care of yourself, and arriving at work each morning full of energy, can be as simple as taking control of your food choices. Call us today on 1300 889 073 to learn about our Nutrition Workshops, and let HSG empower your team with the latest nutrition info.