Can Your Diet Reduce Your Chances of Alzheimer’s?
After a fifteen year study of 1,006 elderly persons, researchers say yes, ones diet can dramatically reduce our chances of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
More than a thousand people followed
The researchers, from Japan’s Kyushu University Graduate School of Medical Sciences, followed 1,006 people who were between 60 and 80 years old. They tracked their diets, and tracked whether they contracted vascular dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease during that period.
The researchers grouped the diets among the subjects into seven general categories. These included western diet patterns, traditional Japanese diets and more or less vegetable intake, more or less soy intake, more or less rice intake, more or less dairy intake and more or less algae (seaweed) intake – part of the traditional Japanese diet.
Among the total population, after an average of fifteen years 144 people developed Alzheimer’s disease and 88 developed vascular dementia – the second-leading type of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. (Research has estimated that 20-30% of dementia cases are vascular, and vascular dementia can also produce Alzheimer’s symptoms.)
The researchers found that those whose diets had the highest intakes of vegetables, soybeans, algae, milk and dairy products, and low in rice had a 65% reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, 66% less incidence of any dementia, and 45% less incidence of vascular dementia.
What’s wrong with rice?
It should be pointed out that white polished rice is the primary rice being eaten among the Japanese today. We discuss the problems with white rice and why brown rice is healthier for a myriad of reasons. This article discusses research that shows that white rice increases the risk of metabolic diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, while brown rice has the opposite effects.
Other research confirms vegetable diets reduce Alzheimer’s risk
Other research has found that diets rich in fruits and vegetables – notably the Mediterranean Diet – decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. In a study from Australia’s Edith Cowan University, it was found that diets that most closely adhere to the Mediterranean Diet reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment. This study followed 970 people – including 149 with Alzheimer’s and 98 with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
Seaweeds proven to reverse neurogenerative disorders
As to the effect of seaweed (the primary algae eaten in the Japanese diet), a recent study from Russia has concluded that seaweed contains compounds that prevent and possibly reverse oxidative damage to brain and nerve cells. The primary group of nutrients in seaweeds having these effects are called sulfated polysaccharides. These have been shown in laboratory and animal studies to reverse degeneration of nerve cells among the brain and central nervous system. According to the researchers:
“Sulfated polysaccharides can arrest a number of secondary pathological effects observed in neurodegenerative diseases (oxidative stress, inflammation, the phenomenon of increased neuronal apoptosis, toxic effects etc.).”
They also suggested that “sulfated polysaccharides may be the basis for the creation of next-generation drugs for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.”
Or, we can simply include seaweeds in our diet. What a novel idea.
What about the dairy and soybeans? Aren’t they bad for you?
As to milk and dairy products, these have been found to contain certain long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that nourish nerve cells. Studies with infants have found that these type of fatty acids promote brain and nerve cell development. And assuming the dairy product is fermented, there is a reduction of casein and lactose – as casein has been linked in other research with increased cancer incidence.
As to soybeans, numerous studies have shown soy is heart-healthy, reduces the risk of cancer and its phytoestrogens help balance hormone levels among the aging. Soy provides all the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Non-GMO, organic soybeans are not only nutritious, but they have a solid scientific basis for being healthy. This is especially true for fermented soy products, such as tofu, natto and tempeh. (Read more research about phytic acid.)
This and other studies give us a mature view of how our dietary habits today will effect our future. Diets that produce high levels of oxidative free radicals have been shown to produce a higher risk of not just cardiovascular disease, but also dementia, because what damages the heart and blood vessels can also damage brain and nerve cells. And when it comes to blood flow, brain cells will suffer first when arteries become clogged.
Plant and seaweed compounds – phytonutrients – provide the opposite effect. They not only neutralize free radicals. They also provide an array of nutrients that protect the brain and blood vessels.
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Besednova NN, Somova LM, Guliaev SA, Zaporozhets TS. [Neuroprotective effects of sulfated polysaccharides from seaweed]. Vestn Ross Akad Med Nauk. 2013;(5):52-9.
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Koletzko B, Sauerwald U, Keicher U, Saule H, Wawatschek S, Böhles H, Bervoets K, Fleith M, Crozier-Willi G. Fatty acid profiles, antioxidant status, and growth of preterm infants fed diets without or with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. A randomized clinical trial. Eur J Nutr. 2003 Oct;42(5):243-53.
Gardener S, Gu Y, Rainey-Smith SR, Keogh JB, Clifton PM, Mathieson SL, Taddei K, Mondal A, Ward VK, Scarmeas N, Barnes M, Ellis KA, Head R, Masters CL, Ames D, Macaulay SL, Rowe CC, Szoeke C, Martins RN; AIBL Research Group. Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and Alzheimer’s disease risk in an Australian population. Transl Psychiatry. 2012 Oct 2;2:e164. doi: 10.1038/tp.2012.91.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn our health around. As I drove home that night, I realized this knowledge should be available to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.”