Nutrients to Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative disease that results from the complex interaction of multiple mechanisms that, to date, aren't yet fully understood. However, certain diets can help provide your body with the nutrients it needs to help prevent or delay this disease.
Nutrients to Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

Last update: 25 May, 2021

There are certain dietary patterns and nutrients to prevent Alzheimer’s disease that can delay the development and progression of the disease.

In any case, remember that this disease is chronic and incurable to date. The only thing that can be done to delay its onset is to improve lifestyle habits, although the genetic component plays an important factor.

Below we’ll present a series of dietary strategies that may be useful in reducing the incidence of this illness. They’re supported by science, although this doesn’t mean that carrying them out will prevent the appearance of this disease.

Let’s take a look.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

To begin with, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common dementia among older adults. It affects 1 in 4 people over the age of 85.

The decline in cognitive function results from the interaction of several factors:

  • Age
  • Environment
  • Educational level
  • Genetic vulnerability

The prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases has increased considerably due to the proportion of older adults in the world and, to some extent, because of eating habits that produce a favorable environment for neuronal damage.

Risk factors for the development of Alzheimer’s disease

Although its origin is still unknown, scientists know that oxidative stress, mitochondrial (cellular organelle) dysfunction, and inflammation are central factors in this disease. Specifically, excess free radicals cause damage to DNA, lipids, and proteins, contributing to the pathogenesis of the disease. In addition, increased permeability of intestinal and encephalic membranes can increase the accumulation of toxic substances that increase the risk of developing the disease, according to research published in the journal F1000Research.

The main disorders associated with this damage are cardiovascular risk factors:

  • Obesity
  • Dyslipidemia
  • Arterial hypertension
  • Insulin resistance and diabetes
  • Interaction between nutrition and Alzheimer’s disease

Several authors have explored the use of food components and the role of different eating habits in the development and progression of this neurodegenerative disease.

Specifically, the current diet, such as the Western diet, is associated with the high incidence and prevalence of chronic degenerative diseases, as it promotes an inflammatory environment in the body.

Junk food on plates.
Specialists often associate the Western diet with an increased risk of chronic diseases, as it plays a role in increasing inflammation.

Molecular mechanisms and nutrients to prevent Alzheimer’s disease

Currently, certain nutrients are known to interact protectively against numerous factors in the development of the disease. In particular, the role of omega-3, vitamins E and B, as well as choline and uridine have been studied for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

However, there’s still insufficient clinical evidence about the impact of isolated supplementation of these nutrients on Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, dietary plans containing functional products have been studied to address numerous risk factors.

Mediterranean diet

Scientific literature refers to this diet as a potential neuroprotective treatment. Specialists know that the Mediterranean diet is characterized by high consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and vegetable fatty acids.

The Mediterranean diet is a dietary model, as it’s rich in:

  • Monounsaturated fatty acids (mainly olive oil)
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids (present in fish)
  • Numerous antioxidants such as sulfur compounds, anthocyanins, catechins, flavonoids, indoles, and lutein
  • Vitamins A, B complex, D, and E
  • Cardioprotective minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium; as well as iodine, sodium, and selenium
Healthy food on a table.
The Mediterranean diet is a nutritional model and has nutrients for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Mediterranean diet and Alzheimer’s disease

Clinical studies have studied the influence of this diet on cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases. A study published in the Archives of Neurology, conducted in an American population, found that the greater the adherence to the Mediterranean diet, the lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Also, scientists found that this type of diet can preserve a greater volume of gray matter, as well as produce a lower accumulation of β-amyloid substances that are related to the increased risk of developing the disease.

DASH diet and nutrients for Alzheimer’s prevention

The DASH diet is an eating pattern that was created by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). This eating plan is characterized by nutrients that reduce blood pressure and protect against several cardiovascular risk factors that play a role in the development of dementia and the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies, such as the one published in the journal Neurology by Tangney et al, have found that adherence to this diet is significantly associated with less cognitive decline and a reduction in the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

Ingredients for a healthy meal to prevent Alzheimer's disease.
The DASH diet is another dietary model that serves as a reference for reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease through diet.

The MIND Diet

The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, and its impact has been studied on delaying the neurodegenerative process and decreasing incidence rates for Alzheimer’s disease. It’s based on 10 brain-healthy foods:

  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Red fruits (rich in polyphenols)
  • Green leafy vegetables (rich in polyphenols)
  • Lean meats such as fish (rich in omega 3) and chicken

It also excludes foods typical of the Western diet that contribute to cardiovascular risk: red meat, butter and margarine, cheese, pastries, and sweets.

The ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet is an eating plan low in carbohydrates (HC) and rich in fatty acids, which has a fasting effect on the body, producing a state of ketosis. Specialists have been using this plan for over 100 years, especially to treat drug-resistant epilepsy.

While the diet usually has an intake of 55 % HC, 30 % fatty acids and 15 % protein, the proportions in the ketogenic diet are 8 % HC, 90 % fatty acids, and 7 % protein. Consequently, these changes in dietary patterns are difficult to maintain and not very palatable, especially if they’re to be sustained over a long period of time.

Steak on a plate to prevent Alzheimer's disease.
The ketogenic diet is associated with neuroprotective effects. However, it’s a dietary pattern that should be adopted with caution.

The impact of ketone bodies and nutrients to prevent Alzheimer’s disease

The neuroprotective effects of this diet are related to the biochemical changes that occur after the production of ketone bodies. This increases respiration in the mitochondria and improves their functioning. They also have antioxidant activity. These effects have been categorized by experts as protective against the development of neurodegenerative diseases.

Likewise, consuming polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3) from this diet promotes neuronal membrane excitability. It also reduces inflammatory conditions and free radical production.

Changes in diet and nutrients to prevent Alzheimer’s disease

To conclude, it’s true that Alzheimer’s disease results from the interaction of multiple mechanisms which, to date, scientists still don’t fully understand.

However, they’ve found a correlation between cardiovascular risk factors, cognitive impairment, development of dementia, and incidence of neurodegenerative diseases. They’ve also found a correlation between cardiovascular risk factors, cognitive impairment, development of dementia, and the incidence of neurodegenerative diseases.

Therefore, one measure for the prevention and treatment of these diseases is to provide the body with nutrients that address inflammation, promote antioxidant activity, and decrease the accumulation of substances that promote neuronal death.

These diets can help do just that.

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  • Weller J., Budson A., Current understanding of Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and treatment. F1000Research, 2018.
  • Liyanage SI., Vilekar P., Weaver DF., Nutrients in alzheimer’s disease: the interaction of diet, drugs and disease. Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, 2019.
  • Scarmeas N., Luchsinger JA., Mayeux R., Stern Y., Mediterranean diet and alzheimer disease mortality. Neurology, 2009.
  • Tangney CC., Li H., Wang Y., Barnes L., et al., Relation of DASH and mediterranena like dietary patterns to cognitive decline in older persons. Neurology, 2014. 83 (16): 1410-6.
  • Wlodarek D., Role of ketogenic diets in Neurodegenerative disease (Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease) Nutrients, 2019.