Senior Health

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Alzheimer's Disease & Diet - Foods that Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

Find out how and why what you eat has been shown to affect chances of developing cognitive impairment with age. Our experts break down the science behind preventing Alzheimer's disease by modifying your diet.


We know that consuming too many carbohydrates, especially sugar, can be harmful to our bodies and in turn, halt the weight-loss process.

The Alzheimer's Diet

However, did you know that consuming too many carbohydrates can be bad for your brain? That’s right. Tasty sugary treats like candy bars and chocolate are definitely not brain food. So here’s some food for thought: according to a recent research study from Tufts University, in Boston, high carbohydrate intake may be linked to a greater risk for cognitive impairment, which is an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia, which is the loss of mental functions such as thinking, memory, and reasoning that is severe enough to interfere with a person's daily functioning.

That’s not a place you want to be, however, there are ways to go about reducing your Alzheimer’s risk.

A study was recently conducted by the Mayo Clinic to further explain this phenomenon.

Mayo Clinic researchers tracked down 1,230 people who ranged in age from 70 to 89 years old. The study subjects were asked what they ate the previous year, and their answers were recorded and analyzed. Out of the entire group of 1,230, only the 940 people who showed no signs of cognitive impairment at the beginning of the study were asked to return for 15-month follow-ups. By the study's fourth year, 200 of the 940 people, unfortunately, began to show mild cognitive impairment.

Not everyone with mild cognitive impairment goes on to develop Alzheimer's disease, but many do, says lead author Rosebud Roberts, a professor in the department of epidemiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

This is a growing problem because Alzheimer's affects 5.2 million adults nationwide, and numbers are expected to triple by 2050. Worry not however, because we will show you ways to reduce Alzheimer’s risk through diet modification.

How can you help yourself?

BistroMD Meals that Help Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

This study essentially says that that reducing your Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment risk can be accomplished through a low carbohydrate diet, which is what Dr. Cederquist and our registered dietitians strive for with Silver Cuisine by bistroMD.

According to Roberts, a high carbohydrate intake could be bad for you because carbohydrates impact your glucose and insulin metabolism. “Sugar fuels the brain—so moderate intake is good. However, high levels of sugar may actually prevent the brain from using the sugar, similar to what we see with type 2 diabetes,” says Roberts.

Diets heavy in sugar and complex carbohydrates, such as processed grains, contribute to the risk factor by affecting the body’s glucose and insulin metabolism. Therefore, you should steer clear of simple carbohydrates like rice, pasta, bread and cereals. Your body is just going to turn them straight into sugar anyway.

Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer's with a Balanced Diet
Here are 10 high carb foods that you should try to avoid:

1. Fructose and granulated sugar

2. Drink powers, hard candies and gummies

3. Sugary cereals

4. Dried fruits

5. Low fat crackers, rice cakes and potato chips

6. Flour, cakes and cookies

7. Jams and preserves

8. Potatoes

9. Sweet pickles, sauces and salad dressings

10. Pizzas

Alzheimer's and Diet: The Importance of a Balanced Diet

One way you can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease is by committing to a balanced diet. We believe that lean protein should be at the center of any balanced diet plan, and that controlled quantities of complex carbohydrates are necessary. After all, we want you to lose fat, not muscle.

While the bistroMD program provides 1,100-1,400 calories daily with 40-50% total caloric intake from lean, adequate protein, 20-25% of calories from healthy fats, and 30-35% from complex carbohydrates, Silver Cuisine by bistroMD can be used to order a la carte which provides added flexibility if you don't need all of your meals delivered.

Foods That Help Prevent Alzheimer's:
Why Protein Is Good For You

Participants from the Mayo Clinic study who consumed more protein and fat relative to carbohydrates were less likely to become cognitively impaired.

Roberts also emphasized the importance of a balanced diet saying, “We think it’s important that you eat a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat because each of these nutrients has an important role in your body.”

Alzheimer's and Diet: Let’s put it into perspective:

Participants who reported the highest carbohydrate intake at the beginning of the study were 1.9 times likelier to develop mild cognitive impairment than those with the lowest intake of carbohydrates. Participants with the highest sugar intake were 1.5 times likelier to develop mild cognitive impairment than those with the lowest levels.

However, those whose diets were highest in fat—compared to the lowest—were 42-percent less likely to suffer cognitive impairment and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s was reduced. Similarly, participants who had the highest intake of protein had a relative reduced risk of 21-percent.

Alzheimer's and Diet: So What Should You Eat?

The lesson to take away from the Mayo Clinic study is that diets that focus on providing adequate amounts of lean protein and healthy fats can help to protect the brain from the development of cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer's disease. Carbohydrate consumption should be measured and controlled. When you are eating carbohydrates – whole grains are your friend.

Whole grains such as whole wheat, brown rice, oats and barely all retain the fiber and nutrients of the grain’s bran and germ, which are lost in processing. Because these carbohydrates are digested more slowly, they have a less dramatic effect on blood sugar and thus may be better for the brain. Beans and other vegetables are other carbohydrates that have more modest impacts on blood sugar. 

Written By Sarah Asay, RDN. Published on April 04, 2013. Updated on February 13, 2019.


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