Alzheimer’s Disease

Our diet influences our brain health just as readily as it does in the rest of our body. Our circulatory system aids nutrients from our food to travel around our body nourishing and healing it. It also deposits fatty substances from our diet, such as saturated fat from animal products and trans fats from fried and processed foods, in our veins and arteries developing plaques which over time lead to various states of disease throughout our body.  Inside our brain, this results in neuron plaques, tangled neuron fibers and hardening of the arteries leading to dementia diseases such as Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. As the blood flow through the brain reduces over time through the clogged arteries, this can become critical to brain cell survival. The decreasing oxygen supply starves the brain and causes silent mini-strokes and brain atrophy, culminating in the development and evolution of Alzheimer’s.

Excess metals in the body, such as iron, copper and aluminium, are also thought to play a part in the development of Alzheimer’s. They build up in the brain as they stick to the plaques promoting the production of free radicals and impairing cognition. Avoid supplements containing iron and copper.  Also avoid aluminium in cookware, processed foods, baking powder and antacids.  Reading labels is advisable.

Findings have been confirmed in 2 large studies which showed atherosclerosis in the brain is significantly more frequent and severe in those with Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is that it can be treated with the same proven strategies as other vascular diseases and is therefore preventable and potentially reversible.

A whole food plant based diet benefits the brain through antioxidants in plant foods which fight harmful free radicals helping to improve learning and recall. Vitamin E and polyphenols found in nuts and seeds, folate and Vitamin B6 found in green leafy vegetables, and legumes such as chickpeas, beans and lentils are all important brain protecting vitamins. Berries, cocoa, citrus fruit and onions are rich in flavonoids which also have a strong protective effect on the brain.

Regular daily exercise promotes longevity and brain health. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise can reduce brain atrophy, improving memory and other cognitive functions.

Getting a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a night and regular brain exercises such as crosswords, puzzles, jigsaws or learning a new language are also important measures for boosting brain health.

Hope for Alzheimer’s Patients
Michael Greger M.D. FACLM

Nutrition and Alzheimer’s
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Dr. Joel Fuhrman

How May Eating Plants Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?
Michael Greger M.D. FACLM

Diet and Alzheimer’s Disease Factsheet
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PDF)

Meat Increases Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet and Alzheimer’s Disease
RISE: Northeastern University, Bertilla Liew and Cindy Wu

Research papers

Intracranial atherosclerosis as a contributing factor to Alzheimer’s disease dementia

A Rare Success against Alzheimer’s

Atherosclerosis and AD: analysis of data from the US National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Centre

Fruit, vegetables and prevention of cognitive decline or dementia: a systematic review of cohort studies

Using multi-country ecological and observational studies to determine dietary risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease: Journal of the American College of Nutrition

Dietary patterns associated with Alzheimer’s disease: population based study