Alzheimer’s disease currently affects more than 5 million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. While there is no cure for this common form of dementia, there are various traditional and alternative treatment options that may help manage symptoms. Several studies even indicate that some foods may help to delay the onset of the disease altogether.
“At the present moment, there is no scientific evidence that shows that any particular food prevents Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Cedrina Calder, MD. “However, there is some evidence that shows that following a Mediterranean diet or MIND diet is associated with slower cognitive decline and decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”
The MIND diet, which is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, is specifically geared toward supporting brain health and is believed to reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s. While scientists are still learning how exactly the MIND diet can potentially stave off the brain disorder, what they do know is the diet has been shown to improve cardiovascular health. This, in turn, may reduce dementia risk. Many foods that are a part of the MIND diet also have anti-inflammatory properties, and inflammation can be detrimental to brain health.
“We know that inflammation occurs in Alzheimer’s disease but researchers are still trying to figure out what role it plays, if any, in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Calder.
The following foods comply with both the Mediterranean and MIND diets and may play a role in reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s. Also, don’t miss The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
Turmeric has long been used as both a spice in cooking and in traditional medicine. India has a particularly low incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, which some health experts attribute to its population’s high intake of turmeric. The active ingredient curcumin is believed to provide a host of benefits to the brain and body.
“Curcumin, a nutrient found in turmeric, has been associated with improvement in cognitive function in some smaller studies,” says Calder.
Consider adding one teaspoon of turmeric to your roasted vegetables or even making a golden latte with the warming spice to start your morning.
Rich in heart-healthy fats, fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel have all been associated with decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, says Calder.
“Fatty fish are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found in some studies to prevent or delay cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease,” she adds. (Related: What’s the Difference Between Omega-3, -6, and -9? A Registered Dietitian Explains.)
According to one 2018 study published in the Public Health Nutrition journal, of the near 7,000 adults aged 60 years and older that were monitored for two years, 326 were diagnosed with dementia. Those who consumed any amount of fish during that two-year timeframe had a reduced risk of dementia compared to those who didn’t eat any at all.
Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries are all loaded in antioxidants, which may benefit brain function by protecting it from oxidative stress.
“Berries are one of the 10 healthy food groups in the MIND diet,” says Calder. “Some studies have suggested that blueberries have a positive effect on cognition.”
Kale, spinach, and collard greens are packed with nutrients that support overall health, and special attention has been paid to flavanols. One recent study showed that a high intake of flavanols may be associated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
“Studies have shown that leafy green vegetables may protect against cognitive decline,” says Calder.
Dr. Doug Scharre, neurologist and director of the division of Cognitive Neurology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, says that while Alzheimer’s cannot be prevented through the consumption of specific foods, correct nutrition is fundamental to brain health and may mitigate cognitive decline.
One way you can support your brain health right now is by removing processed foods (that are loaded with added sugars and unhealthy fats) from your diet.
“Well-balanced diets low in saturated fats and processed sugars seem to be more healthy for the brain,” Dr. Scharre says.
For more, be sure to check out Drinking This Beverage May Make You Smarter, Study Finds.