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Can Genetics Play a Role in Determining The Best Diet for Alzheimer’s disease?

Posted by on Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

alzheimer's prevention diet

There are many new diets these days, all claiming to be the best for brain health.  Improving cognitive skills seems to have gone mainstream and with all this attention on brain health, more and more brain healthy diets keep popping up. But which diet is healthiest for Alzheimer’s disease prevention?

According to Dr. Angela Hanson, Geriatric specialist at the UW Memory and Brian Wellness Center, the very best diet we have scientific evidence for right now is the Mediterranean Diet. 

The Mediterranean diet encourages healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, nuts, fish, lean meat, such as skinless turkey and chicken as well as a wide assortment of bright colored fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Hanson mentions the low rates of heart disease and dementia in the Okinawan population which is known for a diet high in carbohydrates-unlike the Mediterranean diet which is comprised of fewer carbohydrates and more unsaturated fats.  The people of the Okinawa region experience some of the healthiest long lives compared to anywhere else in the world. 

This got Dr. Hanson wondering.  Is the best diet for brain health one that works for everyone, or does genetics have something to do with it?  In her research, Hanson strives to find the answer to that question and many others.

Dr. Hanson studies how diet affects cognition and Alzheimer’s prevention.  She initially became involved in diet studies when she joined a research study in 2011 being conducted by Dr. Suzanne Craft at Wake Forest University.  Dr. Craft is now a neuropsychologist working on her ground-breaking research to find out exactly how insulin effects the brain.  Craft’s diet studies include examining older adults for 4 weeks after they were fed either the Western diet or a low-fat heart healthy diet.  Evaluation of biomarkers and cognitive testing revealed that study participants with the APOE4 allele (a common genetic factor for late onset AD) responded differently to insulin given via intranasal doses. 

APOE4 is a gene that has been found to cause individuals to have a 2 to 10 times higher risk of developing late onset AD.  This is not an iron clad rule of thumb.  Many people with 2 copies of the APOE4 gene live to be over 100 and they have no evidence of AD upon brain autopsy. And of course there are many people without the gene who develop AD. Dr. Hanson stated, “So, it may be that if you have the APOE4 genotype, you are more prone to certain vascular risk factors, so that certain foods or activities accelerate aging, and if you don’t do those things, maybe not.”   “It suggests there is some environmental and genetic interaction, something that you could modify or prevent if you knew what it was.”

In Conclusion

While the jury is still out regarding whether genetics affect the type of foods that are and are not considered brain healthy, Hanson says there is no substitute for a heart healthy diet and regular exercise plan.  The evidence points to the fact that adopting a nutritious diet and life style can help even when adopted later in life or after the initial stage of Alzheimer’s disease begins.

Learn more about Alzheimer’ disease and prevention by CLICKING HERE to purchase the book The Alzheimer’s Treatment and Prevention Diet, written by Dr. Richard Isaacson, Harvard trained neurologist. 

For more easy to follow nutrition advice check out The Alzheimer’s Diet: A Step-by-Step Nutritional Approach to Memory Loss Prevention and Treatment, or visit to learn more about Neurologist, Dr. Richard Isaacson's 9 week diet plan and his cutting edge approach in the fight against AD in Alzheimer's Treatment | Alzheimer's Prevention: A Patient and Family Guide 2012 Edition. Also, sign up for the newsletter to get the latest updates in AD treatment and prevention news.

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