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Can You Really Eat Your Way to Alzheimer’s Prevention?

Posted by on Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

In the past, the cause of Alzheimer’s has been a mystery to medical professionals and researchers. There are more than 5 million people in the United States living with Alzheimer’s today, but recent findings are beginning to look much brighter for those individuals affected by Alzheimer’s and their families.  For those individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, increasing healthy fatty acids into the daily diet has shown phenomenal results in decreasing symptoms!

Alzheimer's Epidemic

Image Source: alz.org

Recent Research

According to Lennart Mucke M.D. GIND director and author of a new study; “Several different proteins have been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, but we wanted to know more about the potential involvement of lipids and fatty acids.”

The brain takes up fatty acids quickly and transforms them into phospholipids, a certain type of fat that functions to protect nerve cells in the brain. Scientists in the study compared these fatty acids in the brain of normal mice with those in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.

The phospholipids release arachidonic acid with the help of an enzyme called “PLA2.” When this enzyme was lowered in the mice, arachidonic acid levels were also lower, resulting in improvement in memory loss and other deficits observed in Alzheimer’s disease.

“Arachidonic acid likely wreaks havoc in the Alzheimer mice by causing too much excitation, which makes neurons sick. By lowering arachidonic acid levels, we are allowing neurons to function normally,” said Dr. Sanchez-Mejia.

Dr. Mucke’s study concluded that; “in general, fatty acid levels can be regulated by diet or drugs.”

Introducing More Fatty Acids Into the Daily Diet

So how can those with Alzheimer’s realistically incorporate more healthy fatty acids into their daily diet?  Just one visit to the grocery store will confuse most consumers with all of the labels and marketing of “healthy fat free” products.  Our low fat options in the Unites States have soared and at the same time, the number of overweight adults, teens, and children has skyrocketed as well.

obesity rates in America

Image Source: LA Times

The Difference Between Good Fats and Bad Fats

In spite of what our culture believes; fat is NOT the enemy in our daily diet. Of course there are bad fats such as saturated and Trans fats found in chemically engineered foods such as margarine. These products are guilty as charged for weight gain, clogged arteries, and more.

But the good fats such as unsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids are actually health promoting, they play a big role in creating energy, fighting low moods, and controlling weight- as well as helping to decrease symptoms of impaired mental functioning in Alzheimer’s disease.

good fatty acids in Alzheimer's prevention

Image Source: adelicious4life.posterous.com

 

Incorporating Healthy Fatty Acids into Your Daily Diet

The optimal diet for Alzheimer’s should have a focus on increasing healthy fats and replacing the bad ones such as Trans fats with the health promoting fatty acids.

Everyone knows that eating more fish like salmon and halibut can help improve the quality and amount of fat in your daily diet, but some people don’t really care for seafood, or have limited access due to geographic location or even budget.

You may or may not be aware that foods such as; natural nut butters, and even beans, winter squash, avocados,  and extra virgin olive oil are perhaps more practical and economical sources of healthy fatty acids.

 

Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Food

Serving

omega-3 fatty acids

% DV

Density

Quality

Flax seeds 0.25 cups 7.0 g 156.4 17.6 Excellent
Walnuts C 0.25 cup 2.3 g 50.4 6.3 Very good
Chinook salmon, baked/broiled 4.0 oz-wt 2.1 g 46.4 3.6 Very good
Scallops, baked/broiled 4.0 oz-wt 1.1 g 24.4 3.3 Good
Soybeans, cooked 1 cup 1.0 g 22.9 1.6 Good
Halibut, baked/broiled 4.0 oz-wt 0.6 g 13.8 1.8 Good
Shrimp, steamed, boiled 4.0 oz-wt 0.4 g 8.2 1.5 Good
Snapper, baked 4.0 oz-wt 0.4 g 8.0 1.1 Good
Tofu, raw 4.0 oz-wt 0.4 g 8.0 1.9 Good
Winter squash 1 cup 0.3 g 7.6 1.9 Good
Tuna, yellowfin 4.0 oz-wt 0.3 g 7.3 0.9 -
Cod, baked 4.0 oz-wt 0.3 g 7.1 1.2 -
Kidney beans 1 cup 0.3 g 6.7 0.6 -

 

Cooking ideas for incorporating more beans into the daily diet include; eating more soups with beans such as; tortellini soup with beans, chard cannellini bean soup, Tuscan bean soup, white bean chili, or Chicken Tortilla Soup with Beans. You can also substitute or add different types of beans in recipes in order to maximize the healthy fatty acid content.

For soybean lovers, there are also many great recipe ideas to include more of them in your diet, like soy and mushroom salad - Yum! Another way to increase your intake of beans is to add them to eggs such as in the following recipe for Black Bean Egg Frittatas:

black bean frittata for Alzheimer's nutrition

Image Source: http://aggieskitchen.com/

Ingredients  (Serves 3)

  • 3 to 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large avocado, chopped
  • 3/4 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 5 ounces sundried tomatoes
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tortellini soup with beans and chard Cannellini Bean Soup teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (if you like a little spice)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Toppings are optional including:

  • salsa
  • fresh cilantro
  • avocado, slices
  • fresh tomato, slices

Directions:

  1. Soak sundried tomatoes in a cup of hot water to re-hydrate for about 30 minutes or more
  2. Cook green onion in hot oil in skillet over medium-heat in oven proof skillet for a few minutes until tender, add sundried tomatoes
  3. Stir in black beans
  4. Mix together eggs, sour cream, salt, pepper and cumin and add to beans, onions and sundried tomatoes in the skillet.
  5. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes
  6. Sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top of egg mixture and cook for 5 more minutes
  7. Top with the toppings of your choice and serve

Keep in mind that you CAN eat too many good fats. According to the American Heart Association you should eat no more than 35% of your total daily intake of calories every day in healthy fats. Optimally most of the fat intake should come from monounsaturated fats and the rest with omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids.

Recent research is pointing to the fact that diet may not only help in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, it may also prevent it from occurring in the first place.  With the explosion of diabetes occurring in America today, perhaps we could all benefit from learning a bit more about how to eat healthier.  As they say; “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” so why start using more healthy fat, and less sugar into your diet today?

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 theadplan.com 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.

3 Responses to “Can You Really Eat Your Way to Alzheimer’s Prevention?”

  1. Katie says:

    Love the recipe for black bean fritatas! What a creative way to incorporate healthy eating into your diet! Great info.

  2. Michelle M says:

    What a well written and informative article! I had no idea that omega-3 came from anything but fish!

  3. Bill Bliss says:

    interesting article. Good information to put into use. Thanks!

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