Flashback Friday: Preventing Alzheimer’s with Lifestyle Changes and Diet

Flashback Friday: Preventing Alzheimer’s with Lifestyle Changes and Diet

September 13, 2019 38 By Ewald Bahringer


“Preventing Alzheimer’s with Lifestyle Changes and Preventing Alzheimer’s with Diet” It is safe to say that
Alzheimer’s disease research is in a state of crisis. For the past two decades, over 73,000
research articles have been published, averaging 100 papers per day,
yet little clinical progress has been made. The reason a cure may
be impossible is because lost cognitive functions
in Alzheimer’s disease patients are due to fatally
damaged neuronal networks, and dead nerve cells cannot
be brought back to life. Consequently, replacement with new brain cells— even if it were technically possible, cannot be done without creating
a new personal identity. One may live, but is it really a
cure if one’s personality is lost forever? Developing drugs that try to
clear out the plaques from advanced degenerated brain tissue
makes about as much sense as bulldozing tombstones from graveyards
in an attempt to raise the dead. Even if drug companies figured out
how to stop further disease progression, many Alzheimer’s victims
might not choose to live without recognizing family,
friends, or themselves in a mirror. Thus, prevention of Alzheimer’s
may be the key, just as brain attack, or heart attack,
stroke can be significantly prevented, one can think of Alzheimer’s
dementia as a ‘‘mind attack.” Mind attack, like heart attacks
or strokes, needs to be prevented by controlling of vascular risk factors,
like high blood pressure and cholesterol, controlling that chronic brain hypoperfusion, the lack of adequate blood flow
to the brain over the years before the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, which means a healthy diet,
physical exercise, and mental exercise. Here’s the potential number
of Alzheimer’s cases that could be prevented every year
in the United States if we could just reduce
diabetes rates 10%… 25%, because diabetes is a risk
factor for Alzheimer’s. And so is high blood pressure, obesity,
depression, not exercising your body, smoking, not exercising your brain. Altogether, a small reduction
in all these risk factors could potentially prevent hundreds
of thousands of devastated families. If modifiable factors such as
diet were found conclusively to modulate the risk of
Alzheimer’s disease to the degree suggested by this research, then we would all indeed
rejoice at the implications. Up to half of Alzheimer’s cases may be
attributable to just these 7 risk factors, and that’s not including diet, just because there are
so many dietary factors that they couldn’t fit
them into their model, but they acknowledged that
diet might be another important modifiable risk
factor for Alzheimer’s disease. In particular, there is growing
evidence that dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet,
are associated with lower Alzheimer’s risk, as well as slower cognitive decline. But which constituents of the
Mediterranean diet are responsible? The traditional Mediterranean diet
is a diet high in intake of vegetables, beans, fruit, and nuts,
and low in meats and dairy. When they tried to tease
out the protective components, fish consumption showed no benefit,
neither did moderate alcohol consumption. The two critical pieces appeared
to be vegetable consumption, and the ratio between unsaturated
fats and saturated fats, essentially plant fats
to animal fats. In studies across 11 countries,
fat consumption appeared to be most closely associated with the prevalence
of Alzheimer’s disease, with the lowest fat intake
and Alzheimer’s rates in China to the highest fat intake and
Alzheimer’s rates in the United States. But this is grouping
all fats together. Harvard researchers examined the
relationships between major fat types to cognitive change over 4 years
among 6,000 healthy older women, and found that higher saturated
fat intake was associated with a poorer trajectory
of cognition and memory. Women with the highest
saturated fat intake had 60 to 70% greater odds of
worst change on brain function. The magnitude of cognitive change
associated with saturated fat consumption was equivalent to about
6 years of aging, meaning women with the
lowest saturated fat intake had the brain function
of women 6 years younger. What if one already has Alzheimer’s, though? Previously, this group of
Columbia University researchers reported that eating
a Mediterranean-style diet was related to lower risk
for Alzheimer’s disease, but whether a Mediterranean diet—
or any diet for that matter— is associated with the
subsequent course of the disease and outcomes had yet
to be investigated… …until now. They found that adherence
to the Mediterranean diet may affect not only risk for Alzheimer’s
disease but also subsequent disease course: Higher adherence to the Mediterranean
diet was associated with lower mortality. And the more they adhered to the
healthier diet, the longer they lived. Within 5 years, only 20% of
those with high adherence died, with twice as many deaths in
the intermediate adherence group, and in the low diet adherence group,
within 5 years, more than half were dead, and by 10 years, 90% were gone,
80% were gone, or less than half. And by the end of the study,
the only people still alive were those with high adherence
to the healthier diet.