During the International Conference on Nutrition and the Brain, experts were asked to propose possible guidelines for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease with the goal to develop practical guidance to recommend to the general public.
Many factors can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease such as; aging, genetic factors, family history, history of head trauma, midlife high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
Dietary and lifestyle factors have also been shown to be linked to increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease including; saturated fat intake, vitamin E intake, and physical exercise. This suggests that prevention methods could be introduced to tackle these particular factors.
At the International Conference on Nutrition and the Brain, Washington DC 2013 experts were asked to review current evidence with regards to the effects of dietary factors, physical and mental exercise and sleep on brain function with the aim to produce guidelines to recommend to the general public. As a result, seven guidelines were agreed upon and developed:
- Minimize intake of saturated fats and trans fats. These types of fats are found in meat, dairy products, and many snack foods. These fats are associated with increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, which are in turn linked to increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), fruits, and whole grains should replace meats and dairy products as primary staples of the diet. these foods contain micronutrients that are essential for good brain health, but they also contain macronutrients that do not contain saturated or trans fats and are linked to a decreased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, which has positive effects on brain health.
- Vitamin E should come from foods, rather than supplements. Healthful food sources of vitamin E include seeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains. The Recommended Daily Allowance for vitamin E is 15mg per day. Recent studies have shown that vitamin E from food sources is linked to decreased Alzheimer’s disease occurrence.
- A reliable source of vitamin B12, such as fortified foods or a supplement providing at least the recommended dietary allowance (2.4 mg per day for adults) should be part of a daily diet. Blood levels of vitamin B12 should be checked regularly as many factors, including age, may impair absorption.
- If using multiple vitamins, choose those without iron and copper and consume iron supplements only when directed by a physician.
- Although aluminum’s role in Alzheimer’s disease remains a matter of investigation, those who desire to minimize their exposure can avoid the use of cookware, antacids, baking powder, or other products that contain aluminum.
- Include aerobic exercise, equivalent to 40 minutes of brisk walking three times per week.
According to the study, there are other factors that may play a role, however, require further investigation and may need to be included in these guidelines in the future. These factors include:
- Maintenance of a good sleep routine, which for most people is 7-8 hours.
- Take part in regular mental activity that encourages new learning, for example 30 minutes per day, 4-5 times a week.
Written by Jade Marie Evans, MPharm
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Barnard, N,D et al. 2019. Dietary and lifestyle guidelines for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. [Online]. [11 August 2019]. Available from: https://profiles.wustl.edu/en/publications/dietary-and-lifestyle-guidelines-for-the-prevention-of-alzheimers
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