Boost your brain: Things to do, eat and drink which could stave off Alzheimer’s
If nuts can help stave off Alzheimer’s, what else is good for your mind? Here are some ways to keep up your brain health
It is the ticking timebomb that will affect 1.7 million of us in just 40 years.
But can you stave off Alzheimer’s with a healthy diet?
This week scientists said eating chicken, oily fish and nuts may help stop it developing. But can it really help?
Dr Anne Corbett, research manager at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We often hear about how a cup of green tea a day or a handful of blueberries is going to stop us getting dementia, but with so much being reported it can be hard to know what to believe.”
Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, added: “Heart disease, stroke and diabetes all increase the risk of dementia, so it’s a good idea to keep healthy from mid-life by eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, exercising regularly and not smoking.
“Keeping your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check can also help reduce the risk of dementia – what’s good for your heart is good for your brain.
“While these may lower the risk of dementia, we do not yet have a sure-fire way to prevent it.”
So what do the experts say about the other claimed methods of beating the disease?
1 EAT BERRIES
A study of 16,010 female nurses in the US suggested that eating greater amounts of blueberries and strawberries is associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline.
The study is published on 26 April in the journal Annals of Neurology.
Strawberries and blueberries are rich in a group of naturally occurring antioxidants called flavonoids, which scientists suggest may help to delay cognitive aging by protecting brain cells from chemical stress which can build up as we age.
Dr Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Population studies like this can provide useful clues about the effects of lifestyle and diet on cognition, but we must be sensible when interpreting the results.
“The study suggests a link between eating berries and slower cognitive decline, but there could be many factors at play.
“Previous evidence has shown that eating fruit as part of a healthy diet in midlife could help to reduce our risk of dementia.”
2 CLEAN THE HOUSE
A study which measured the activity of older people over a four year period, showed that daily physical activity such as cooking, cleaning and playing cards could help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
The study was published in the journal Neurology.
The scientists from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago recruited 716 volunteers with an average age of 82 years.
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “There is already some evidence that exercise in midlife can help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
“This study adds to this by suggesting that daily physical activity like doing household jobs or playing cards could have benefits into older age.”
3 LEARN ANOTHER LANGUAGE
A review article published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences found some evidence to suggest that speaking more than one language may help to boost our ‘cognitive reserve’ – the ability of our brain to resist damage.
It is thought that this could help protect our brains from decline and may bolster our brains against the damage which causes dementia.
Dr Marie Janson of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:“More research is needed to tease apart the most beneficial aspects of bilingualism – whether it is the age we starting learning, how fluent we are or how much we use the language in everyday life.”
4 READ THE MIRROR
US scientists have found that older people who are mentally active have better memory skills, suggesting that mental stimulation like carrying on working may protect against memory decline.
Activities included reading newspapers, playing board games, writing letters or visiting a library.
The same scientists followed 174 Catholic monks, priests and nuns who did not have dementia for up to 15 years before they died, testing their memory and thinking skills annually.
Their results showed the rate of decline was more rapid in the final two and a half years before death.
Dr Marie Janson, Director of Development at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This research adds to growing evidence that keeping our brains active may protect against cognitive decline.”
5 DRINK GREEN TEA
University of South Florida scientists found that green tea compounds could protect the cells in rats from the harmful effects of amyloid – the toxic protein that builds up in the brain during Alzheimer’s.
Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said: “These results are at a very early stage, so we can’t make the leap of assuming that green tea can protect people from dementia.
6 EAT BROCCOLI AND ROCKET
UK scientists are investigating whether the body’s antioxidant systems can be harnessed to help fight Alzheimer’s disease, thanks to a £30,000 grant from Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Led by Dr John Sharkey, the team at the University of Dundee want to know how to fight cell damage caused by free radicals.
They hope to harness the body’s natural antioxidant defence mechanisms to halt the progression of Alzheimer’s, using drugs designed to kick-start these mechanisms.
One drug is based on a chemical called sulforaphane, which is found in vegetables such as broccoli and rocket.
It is currently in clinical trials as an anti-cancer agent, but if the work in Dundee produces positive results, it’s hoped the research could eventually lead to clinical trials for Alzheimer’s – the most common cause of dementia.
7 DRINK RED WINE
In 2008 Alzheimer’s researchers at University of California in collaboration with Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, discovered how red wine may reduce the incidence of the disease.
Reporting in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, David Teplow, a UCLA professor of neurology, and colleagues showed how naturally occurring compounds in red wine called polyphenols block the formation of proteins that build the toxic plaques thought to destroy brain cells.
Dr Anne Corbett, Research manager at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “A Mediterranean diet high in antioxidants, oily fish and even the odd glass of red wine can help reduce your risk by as much as a third.”
8 EAT OMEGA 3
Two recent studies in the journal Neurology have added to the evidence that people who eat foods such as fish, chicken and nuts that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help them prevent Alzheimer’s.
The diet appeared to result in lower levels of the hallmark Alzheimer’s protein – amyloid – in the blood.
In the other study low levels of the omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), led to lower scores on mental tests and lower brain volume equivalent to approximately two years of ‘brain ageing’.
Dr Marie Janson, Director of Development at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “There has been much research into the effects of omega-3.
“We would need to see large-scale, long-term studies before we can know whether a diet high in omega-3 can protect against dementia, and people shouldn’t fill their freezers with oily fish just yet. “
9 DRINK COFFEE
A four-year study of 124 people older than 65 found those who developed the early signs of the disease had 51% less caffeine in their blood than those who stayed healthy.
Scientists from the University of South Florida said in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease: “This paper is the first to say coffee intake is linked to a reduced risk of dementia.”
Dr Marie Janson, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Despite occasional publicity, research has shown that meat, aluminium or living close to power lines are not risk factors for dementia.
“There is also no evidence that turmeric, gingko, ginseng, statins or coffee can protect against dementia.”
Source: Mirror Online