Are our food choices increasing our changes of getting Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's prevention
The foods that are making us fat are also making us stupid. The North American diet is not boding well for optimum function. In his new book The brain diet Dr. Alan Logan says we're over consuming nutritionally poor calories and under-consuming the very foods that protect our brain cells in the short and long term. Those same bad foods causing waistlines to expand are also linked to neurodegenerative disease. While people know the role nutrition plays in cardiovascular health and cancer, the link to mental and neurological health is far from the front of their minds. “It is really shocking how many nutrients are tied in with alterations in psychiatric and neurological condition” Says Logan, a naturopathic physician and faculty member of Harvard University’s Mind-body Medical institute. While we all come into the world with genetic vulnerabilities, he says their expression may be influenced by nutrition. Historically this influence has been underestimated, with little about it taught in medical school.

Making the right food choices - preventing Alzheimer's

Alzheimer’s risk factor
That’s why few people consider the risks of a sugar fix when they head to the vending machine for an afternoon pick-me-up. Yet just as they increase the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the blood sugar spikes and increase insulin secretions associated with a sugary diet are also a risk factor for Alzheimer’s and depression. When asked what’s doing brains the most harm, Logan says it’s a toss-up between over-consuming sugar and over consuming the wrong types of fat. The problem is fat becomes part of the brain cell’s surrounding membrane. Normally the cells are flexible, but saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and too much Omega-6 fatty acids (due to the mass introduction of vegetables oils in baked goods) leave it inflexible. That impairs brain cell communication, which affects mood and cognitive function. One study found that animals that consumed the greatest amount of trans fat in their lifetime had five times greater risk of Alzheimer’s. Cognitive function was also five times worse. “Given a shaker of genetic susceptibility and a chaser of insulin spiking, you're setting the nutritional stage for everything from ADHD to schizophrenia,” Logan says. While there are seven parts to the brain Diet, if people were to do only one thing they should increase their intake of Omega 3 fats, he says. They protect against neurological decline later in live and have a significant positive effect on mood and mental function those with depression.

Pot and java brain food?
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Marijuana may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease by reducing inflammation in the brain, researchers reported. Tests on rats showed a compound in marijuana stopped the loss of brain cells seen in inflammation and improved the animals' memories. The findings, presented to the society for Neuroscience in Atlanta, may help explain studies that suggest people who regularly smoked marijuana in the 1960s and 1970s are now less likely than their peers to develop the disease. And caffeine may have similar effects, said Gary Wenk, a professor of psychology at Ohio State University. "We are not going to ... suggest that people start smoking marijuana," Wenk said, adding researchers need to narrow down the compounds having the effect.

Western diet blamed
Logan says the link between brain health and nutrition can be seen in Japan, where rates of learning disorders, depression and violence in schools have been rising. That has coincided with their traditional diet being replace by western diet. In North America, a 2005 study in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that one in two people can expect to have a diagnosable mental condition in their lifetime, while the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in expected to at least quadruple in the next 40 years. Because emerging research is showing that nutrition can actually stop cognitive decline, taking action now is critical, Logan says. Food for thought. Literally.

By:Holly Lake

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