Brain Foods to Fight Alzheimer’s

Keep your brain in fighting form with healthy fats and antioxidants.

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Alzheimer's Disease

Add Up Your Antioxidants
Antioxidants — helpful substances that protect cells from damaging molecules called free radicals — may be useful in the battle against Alzheimer’s by preventing the toxic plaque that causes the disease from forming. Among the compounds researchers have identified as helpful are aged garlic extract, curcumin (found in the spice turmeric), melatonin (found in sunflower seeds and spices like coriander and celery seeds), resveratrol (found in red wine), ginkgo biloba extract and green tea.

While specific recommendations on amounts of these nutrients have yet to be determined, filling your plate with antioxidant-rich whole foods (which benefit your whole body) is just plain smart on many counts. Look for dark-skinned and -leafed vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli and red bell pepper, and fruits (fresh or dried) such as red grapes, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and cherries. For instance, try a spinach salad tossed with dried cherries or raisins and some sunflower seeds for crunch!

Say Your B, C, E’s

There is some indication that vitamin E (either alone or in combination with vitamin C), vitamin B12 and folate may be important in lowering your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, says Udelson. Eating whole foods that contain these brain-healthy vitamins is ideal (although a good multivitamin can also serve as an insurance policy). 

  • Seek out C in red bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, kiwi, oranges, and leafy greens.
  • Enrich your E intake with wheat germ, peanut butter and sunflower oil.
  • Boost B12 with a high-fiber fortified breakfast cereal
  • Fill your folate needs with avocados, legumes and leafy green vegetables.

MORE: Apple Pear Jicama Waldorf Salad for Vitamin E

The Skinny on Alzheimer’s and Your Weight
Being overweight increases your risk of developing a laundry list of life-threatening conditions, but it also increases your risk of developing dementia (defined as impaired thinking and memory loss — sometimes, but not always, caused by Alzheimer’s) and Alzheimer’s disease. Here are some of the links researchers have found between excess weight and impaired brain function:

  • Being extremely overweight (having a body mass index, or BMI, over 30) in middle age makes you twice as likely to develop dementia later in life.
  • Having high blood pressure and high cholesterol — which are also linked with being overweight — means six times the risk of developing dementia.
  • Those who are moderately to extremely overweight have brains that are 4 to 8 percent smaller (with the brain shrinking as body weight rises) than subjects who are within healthy weight ranges. 

The news is particularly alarming for those carrying the most weight (people with a BMI of 30 and above): On MRI scans, researchers at UCLA and the University of Pittsburgh have noticed that the areas of the brain that shrunk the most were the frontal temporal lobes, where higher-order reasoning and judgment take place. The parts of the brain responsible for attention and decision making, for long-term memory and for smooth movements were also affected.

—by Dana Sullivan

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