Can the Effects of Alzheimer’s Be Reversed With the Right Diet?

While your diet may not be able to prevent or cure Alzheimer’s, recent research has found that eating a Mediterranean diet can help slow the changes in the brain associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s.

In fact, the Mediterranean diet has been found to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment by up to 35 percent.1

In this guide, we'll help you learn more about the Mediterranean Diet and how to eat healthier for a healthier brain.

Multiple generations of family at a picnic

What foods are part of a Mediterranean diet?

As its name suggests, the Mediterranean diet includes foods that are commonly eaten by people who live near the Mediterranean Sea.2

This diet is rich with:

  • Fish and other seafood
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables and greens
  • Beans and legumes
  • Cheese and fermented dairy
  • Whole grains, rice and pasta
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olives, olive oil and vinegar

As you can see, this list is made up of fresh ingredients. When you’re grocery shopping, try to avoid processed foods and foods that are labeled “diet,” “low-fat” or “low-calorie.” The fats in the ingredients above are generally considered healthy fats.

How can my diet reduce my Alzheimer’s risk?

A study supported by the National Institute on Aging looked into the effects of a Mediterranean diet on cognitive function.3

In the study:

  • 34 people followed a Mediterranean diet
  • 36 people followed a Western diet (containing an excess of red meat, saturated fats and refined sugar)

The volunteers in both groups ranged in age from 30 to 60 and displayed no signs of dementia when the study began.

Brain scans were performed of all participants at the beginning of the study and then again two years later.

The initial brain scans showed that the participants who ate a Western diet already had a higher level of beta-amyloid deposits than those who followed a Mediterranean diet. Beta-amyloid is a protein that builds up in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s.

In the follow-up scans, the brains of those on a Western diet showed an even higher amount of beta-amyloid than those in the Mediterranean diet group. They also showed lower levels of energy use. High levels of beta-amyloid and low levels of energy use are both consistent with the development of dementia.

The researchers estimate that maintaining a Mediterranean diet for many years can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by more than three years compared to a Western diet.

This research was just the latest in a long line of studies connecting a healthy diet to a healthy brain:

  • Blueberries, strawberries and blackberries (all part of the Mediterranean diet) have been shown to delay cognitive aging in women by up to two and half years.4  

  • A Mediterranean diet was discovered to lower the risk of dementia by up to 40 percent.5

What are unhealthy foods for the brain?

What you don’t eat can be just as important as what you do eat when it comes to slowing the effects of Alzheimer’s.

Consuming too many complex carbohydrates, processed foods and sugar stimulates the growth of toxins, which lead to inflammation and the buildup of plaque in the brain.

This buildup of plaque is what leads to an impairment of cognitive function.

The types of foods that can lead to this plaque buildup include:

  • Pasta
  • White breads
  • Processed meats and cheeses
  • White rice
  • Sugar
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Margarine
  • Cold cut meats
  • Beer

Are you looking to eat healthier and preserve your healthy cognitive function? Did you know that certain Medicare Advantage plans may cover home-delivery of healthy foods and meals?

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Some Medicare Advantage plans cover home meal delivery

Starting in 2019, some Medicare Advantage plans (Medicare Part C) can provide coverage for home caregiving services, such as bathroom grab bars, air conditioners for people with asthma and home meal delivery.

If you would like to learn more about your Medicare Advantage coverage options and compare plans in your area, get started today by speaking with a licensed insurance agent at TTY Users: 711 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not healthcare advice. Speak to your doctor or healthcare provider about your specific healthcare needs.

 

1 Alzheimer’s Association. Healthy Eating Habits May Preserve Cognitive Function and Reduce the Risk of Dementia [press release]. (July 17, 2017). Retrieved from www.alz.org/aaic/releases_2017/AAIC17-Mon-Diet-Release.asp.

2 Zikos, George. The Mediterranean Diet Food List. (July 5, 2018). Mediterranean Living. Retrieved from www.mediterraneanliving.com/the-mediterranean-diet-food-list.

3 National Institutes of Health. Mediterranean diet may slow development of Alzheimer’s disease. (May 15, 2018). Retrieved from www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/mediterranean-diet-may-slow-development-alzheimers-disease.

4 Devore, Elizabeth; Kang, Jae Hee; Breteler, Monique; Grodstein, Francine. Dietary intake of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. (Apr. 26, 2012). Annals of Neurology, 72(1), 135-143. dx.doi.org/10.1002%2Fana.23594.

5 Sohn, Emily. How the evidence stacks up for preventing Alzheimer’s disease. (July 25, 2018). Nature. Retrieved from www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05724-7.

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