“How can we push back or prevent Alzheimer’s?” asks Claudette in Quebec City. As with most health-related issues, the answer is we can do our best with diet and exercise. The Globe’s dietitian wrote a piece this week that outlined a new diet that may help stave off Alzheimer’s:
According to a study, a hybrid of these two eating plans – called the MIND diet – is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. That’s true even if you don’t follow the diet strictly.
Along with elements from the Mediterranean and DASH diets, the MIND diet includes specific foods and nutrients found in past studies to be linked to optimal brain health. The diet’s 10 “brain-healthy food groups” include green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, berries, nuts, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine.
The plan also advises that five unhealthy food groups – red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese (because of its high saturated-fat content), pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food – be limited.
The findings also hinted that the longer a person follows the MIND diet, the greater the protection from Alzheimer’s disease.
While this observational study shows promise for reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s, it doesn’t prove cause and effect. The results need to be confirmed by randomized controlled trials, the gold-standard evidence for a cause-and-effect relationship.
These new findings add to a growing body of evidence that strongly suggests your overall dietary pattern matters more than single nutrients when it comes to Alzheimer’s prevention.
Eating a combination of healthful foods that deliver a wide range of protective nutrients while, at the same time, minimizing your intake of foods that may harm brain cells is what counts.
Read the entire article – including the specifics o the MIND diet – here. In a December 2014 article, The Globe’s fitness expert Alex Hutchison wrote about U.S. research that studied 150,000 participants and showed, “regular exercise lowers the risk of dying from Alzheimer’s by as much as 40 per cent – an indication that the disease’s progression is not unchangeable.”
“Currently, doctors do not screen for Alzheimer’s disease susceptibility because of the belief that nothing can be done for those at risk,” says Dr. Paul Williams, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and the author of the study. “However, our results add to the growing body of scientific evidence suggesting that people can be proactive in lowering Alzheimer’s disease risk.”
The results also showed that running and walking are equally effective as long as you burn the same amount of energy overall. That means you need to spend about twice as much time (or cover 50 per cent more distance) walking briskly compared to running, Williams says.
That doesn’t mean that lesser amounts of exercise are useless, cautions Dr. Jordan Antflick of the Ontario Brain Institute, who co-ordinated a 2013 report on the role of exercise in Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment.
“You don’t have to run a marathon,” he says. “Even raking the leaves or going for a walk after dinner can help.”
After reviewing more than 800 studies and selecting the 45 highest-quality trials, Antflick and his colleagues concluded that more than one in seven cases of Alzheimer’s could be prevented if everyone simply met the minimum guidelines of 150 minutes of exercise per week, in doses as short as 10 minutes at a time. Given that approximately 10 per cent of Canadians over 65 have Alzheimer’s, that would save tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in health-care costs.