Can Diet, and Dietary Supplements, Delay Onset of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease? New Research says Yes!
Alzheimer’s disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. There are few things worse than watching a loved one suffer from this condition. In turn, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60% to 80% of all dementia cases. “Therefore,” according to Martha Clare Morris, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, “prevention of cognitive decline, the defining feature of dementia, is now more important than ever. Delaying dementia’s onset by just 5 years can reduce the cost and prevalence by nearly half.”
Surprisingly, Dr. Morris and her colleagues found that modifying the diet may significantly slow cognitive decline among aging adults, even when the person is not at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This finding, published online in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, is in addition to a previous study by the same research team that found that this diet modification may reduce a person’s risk in developing Alzheimer’s disease.
In fact, the recent study shows that older adults who followed the “MIND” diet more rigorously showed an equivalent of being 7.5 years younger cognitively than those who followed the diet least.
This is pretty impressive. Researchers are spending millions and millions of dollars looking for drugs that will combat Alzheimer’s disease, and it turns out that modifications to our diet could be more effective than any drugs we have come up with so far?
So what is this miraculous diet? They call it the “MIND” diet. It’s a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. Both diets, by the way, have been found to also reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions, like hypertension, myocardial infarctions, and stroke.
The MIND diet has 15 dietary components, including 10 “brain-healthy food groups” and 5 unhealthy groups: red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food. Not that surprising so far, is it? I think most of us already know that saturated fat, hydrogenated oils, and sugar-laden foods are considered unhealthy. So these “5 unhealthy groups” does not seem unexpected.
What are the 10 “brain-healthy” food groups? To benefit from the MIND diet, a person would need to eat at least 3 servings of whole grains, a green leafy vegetable and one other vegetable every day — along with a glass of wine — snack most days on nuts, have beans every other day or so, eat poultry and berries at least twice a week and fish at least once a week.
In addition, the study found that to have a real shot at avoiding the devastating effects of cognitive decline, he or she must not only eat the good foods, but also limit intake of the designated unhealthy foods, especially butter, sweets and pastries, whole fat cheese, and fried or fast food.
The one thing I did find surprising is that berries are the only fruit specifically to be included in the MIND diet. They specified blueberries, saying that they are “one of the more potent foods in protecting the brain.” But they acknowledge, based on earlier research, that strawberries would be expected to work well also. I would think all highly colored berries would prove beneficial.
While this is encouraging, what is troubling is the fact that just a short time ago, another study was published showing that few adults in the U.S. eat enough fruit and vegetables to meet government recommendations. Overall, less than 15% of adults eat enough fruit dailty to meet the guidelines, and even fewer adults eat enough vegetables.
These results were reported in a study by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (July 10, 2015).
Could this lack of adequate intake of fruits and vegetables be related to the increased incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia? More important, is this new research showing the connection between fruit and vegetable intake with Alzheimer’s prevention going to provide enough motivation for people to modify their diet? Sadly, I doubt it. So what are we to do?
The ideal solution, without question, is to eat more fruit and vegetables, while cutting back on saturated fats and sweets. For those who cannot, or will not, do this, there are a variety of nutritional supplements that provide a healthy alternate. Here are some examples.
These products contain isolated or concentrated extracts of plants, vegetables and fruits that can be taken in supplement form. They provide many of the active flavonoid antioxidants normally contained in those plant sources, but in high potency form.
Antiox Phyto Complex II
(Willner Chemists, No. 63745, 90 Veggie Caps)
Some of the most powerful, broad-spectrum antioxidants are those found in plants. This supplement contains a blend of several of the most potent plant-derived phyto-antioxidants available, in a high potency, professional strength veggi cap.
Phyto-Tech™ Antiox Phyto Complex II Capsules contains 375 mg of the following: Acai Berry Concentrate, Mangosteen Fruit Extract, Goji Berry, Pomegranate, Green Tea Leaf Extract, Grape Skin Extract, Grape Seed Extract.
Antiox Phyto Blend
(Willner Chemists, No. 57551, 1 fluid ounce)
Some of the most powerful, broad-spectrum antioxidants are those found in plants. This supplement contains a blend of several of the most potent plant-derived phyto-antioxidants available, in a convenient liquid extract.
Phyto-Tech™ Antiox Phyto Blend contains the following: Acai Berry 4:1, Mangosteen Extract, Goji Berry Extract, Pomegranate 40%, Glycerin Vegetable, Water Pure Deionized, Raspberry Flavor Natural.
This convenient liquid concentrate can be added to almost any beverage, even cocktails.
Food Based Multivitamin Supplements
Many companies provide “whole food” or “food based” multivitamin supplements. These products supply not only pure vitamins and minerals, but also associated food factors and food concentrates rich in phyto nutrients and phyto antioxidants. Here are some examples:
Whole Earth & Sea (Natural Factors)
Men’s Multivitamin & Mineral (No. 64965, 60 tablets)
Men’s 50+ Multivitamin & Mineral (No. 64967, 60 tablets)
Women’s Multivitamin & Mineral (No. 64964, 60 tablets
Women’s 50+ Multivitamin & Mineral (No. 64966, 60 tablets)
Bone Structure Multivitamin & Mineral (No. 65117, 60 tablets)
Spectra Infinite (No. 56734)
Earth Source Multi (No. 13411, 180 tablets)
Food Concentrate Powders
Lastly, there are supplements that consist of mixtures of dehydrated, concentrated vegetables and fruits. These products are perhaps the closest to a replacement for the lack of dietary fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. They can serve as stand-alone meal replacements, perhaps along with a regular multivitamin supplements, or as a supplement to what may be a less than optimal diet.
Spectra Reds (No. 45587, 11.4 ounces powder)
Spectra Purples (No. 51484, 11.6 ounces powder)
Spectra Oranges (No. 52730, 10.6 ounces powder)
Spectra Greens (No. 42432, 12.6 ounces powder)
The above products are only examples of the various categories of supplements. You are welcome to discuss your options with the pharmacists and nutritionists as Willner Chemists for additional recommendations.
Don Goldberg, R.Ph.