Is it Brain Fog or Something More Serious? Part 2
Is there an Alzheimer’s prevention diet? Part two of a special report on how to reduce your risk.
In the previous article I shared with you Patrick Holford’s thoughts on the best things you can do positively to help reduce your risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Now it’s time to look at what you might be doing that could contribute to increasing your risk, so let’s see now how you can steps to avoid them.
Harmful foods and diets
The first item on the list is one most of us consume on a daily basis, but that doesn’t make it any more dangerous.
Sugar in all forms, be it sucrose (commonly known as white/table sugar) or fructose which is a simple sugar that occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables and their juices, as well as in honey – all forms of sugar come out consistently negative.
Studies report poorer cognition associated with intake of sugar-sweetened beverages in adults (Ye 2011) and animal studies show sucrose and fructose both impair cognition and brain health (Lakhan 2013) (Orr 2014).
This is all consistent with the with the fact that diabetes is a risk factor for cognitive decline (see Patrick’s book ‘Is Sugar Killing Your Brain’) as blood glucose is a major predictor of Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life.[xvii] Even so-called ‘high’ levels within the normal reference range for blood glucose are linked to decreased grey matter in the brain.[xviii]
The most recent and substantial study relates to ultra-processed foods following around 70,000 people over a decade. The more ultra-processed foods eaten the higher was the risk for both dementia, Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.[xix]
Replacing just 10 per cent of ultra-processed food by weight in one’s diet with an equivalent proportion of unprocessed or minimally processed foods was estimated to lower risk of dementia by 19%. So, get off the junk. Choose whole foods only.
Key factors: reduce sugar and processed foods to improve cognitive function
What is it about what you eat that could be protective?
The best candidates are foods high in
- Antioxidants: substances that protect cells within the body from damage caused by free radicals. They help to strengthen the body’s ability to fight infection…vitamins (C and E)
- Fruit and vegetables
- Vitamin D: Helps maintain strong and healthy bones by retaining calcium and signs of deficiency are joint pain or stiffness, backache, tooth decay, muscle cramps, hair loss
- Fish and omega-3 fats
- Folate and other B vitamins including B12, only found in animal foods
- Phospholipids, found in eggs and fish
Apart from the studies above it is certainly logical to include choline rich foods sources, as a source for phospholipids. In animal studies, giving choline slows down Alzheimer’s disease development.[xx]
Also, consuming two tablespoons C-8 oil, a form of medium chain triglyceride, can help. These are a type of fat found in the blood – the body uses them for energy – and has been shown to enhance cognition in those with mild cognitive impairment and elevate neuronal energy derived from ketones both in those with MCI and Alzheimer’s.[xxi]
Such dietary practices such as 18:6 (eating all food within a 6 hour window) or starting the day with a Hybrid Latté, almost carb-free, high in cacao, C8 oil and almonds from carb-free almond milk and almond butter or following a low carb, high fat (LCHF) ketogenic diet, which has been shown to have beneficial for those with Alzheimer’s,[xxii] should be considered.
The key components of a diet designed to protect brain health & reduce cognitive decline
If you are concerned about the risk for Alzjeimer’s or dementia then it makes sense to tailor your diet to give you maximum protection. Here’s where you can start:
Eat essential fats and phospholipids
- Eat an egg a day, or six eggs a week – preferably free-range, organic, and high in omega-3s. Boil, scramble or poach them, but avoid frying.
- Eat a tablespoon of seeds and nuts every day – the best seeds are chia, ﬂax, hemp, pumpkin, higher in omega-3. They’re delicious sprinkled on cereal, soups, and salads. The best nuts are walnuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts. Each are high in omega-3 but all nuts, including almonds, hazelnuts and unsalted peanuts are good sources of protein. These are essential nutrients for us as every cell in the human body contains protein. You need it in your diet to help your body repair cells and make new ones.
- Eat cold-water, oily carnivorous ﬁsh – have a serving of herring, mackerel, salmon or sardines two or three times a week (limit tuna, unless identiﬁed as low in mercury, to three times a month).
- Use cold-pressed olive oil for salad dressings and other cold uses, such as drizzling on vegetables instead of butter. Substitute frying with steam frying with olive oil, coconut oil or butter, e.g. for onions and garlic, then adding a watery sauce such as lemon juice, tamari and water, to ‘steam’, for example, vegetables perhaps with tofu, fish or chicken.
Eat slow-release carbohydrates
- Eat wholefoods – whole grains, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, fresh fruit, and vegetables – and avoid all white, reﬁned and over-processed foods, as well as any food with added sugar.
- Snack on fresh fruit, preferably apples, pears and/or berries, especially blueberries.
- Eat less gluten which is a protein found in the cereals wheat, rye and barley. High sources in the diet are bread, pasta, a nd breakfast cereals. Try brown rice, rye, oats, quinoa, lentils, beans, or chickpeas.
- Avoid fruit juices. Eat fresh fruit instead. Occasionally have unsweetened Montmorency cherry juice or blueberry juice (made from unsweetened concentrate).
Eat antioxidant and vitamin-rich foods
- Eat half your diet raw or lightly steamed.
- Eat fresh fruit at least servings a day, including one of berries.
- Eat dark green, leafy and root vegetables, four servings a day such as broccoli, kale, spinach, watercress, carrots, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, green beans, or peppers, as well as mushrooms. Choose organic where possible.
- Have folate every day from beans, lentils, nuts, or seeds or peanuts.
Eat enough protein
- Have three servings a day for men, and two for women.
- Choose good vegetable protein sources, including beans, lentils, quinoa, tofu, or tempeh (soya) and ‘seed’ vegetables such as peas, broad beans and corn.
- Choose lean meat or preferably ﬁsh, organic whenever possible.
Avoid harmful fats
- Minimise your intake of fried or processed food and saturated fats should be avoided wherever possible as they increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood and increase the risk of developing heart disease.
- Minimise your consumption of deep-fried food. Poach, steam or steam-fry food instead.
Avoid, reduce or include all these
- Avoid adding sugar to dishes and avoid foods and drinks with added sugar. Keep your sugar intake to a minimum, sweetening cereal or desserts with fruit.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks. Don’t have more than one caffeinated drink a day. Tea is preferable to coffee.
- Drink alcohol infrequently, and preferably red wine, to a maximum of one small glass (125g) a day.
- Have up to three slices of dark chocolate, minimum 70% cacao, or drink unsweetened cacao with milk or plant milk.
Many women at Menopause certainly do experience brain fog and it is natural to be concerned as to whether it might be something more serious. I have always believed that information is the key to staying as healthy and brain fog certainly can be helped by checking your progesterone levels.
If you missed part one of this article, which focused on positive ways you can help yourself improve and reduce your risk for developing brain cognition issues then you will find it at the link below:
[xvii] Zhang X, Tong T, Chang A, Ang TFA, Tao Q, Auerbach S, Devine S, Qiu WQ, Mez J, Massaro J, Lunetta KL, Au R, Farrer LA. Midlife lipid
Fats, oils, waxes and sterols are collectively known as lipids….
and glucose levels are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers Dement. 2022 Mar 23. doi: 10.1002/alz.12641. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35319157.
[xviii] Mortby ME, Janke AL, Anstey KJ, Sachdev PS, Cherbuin N. High “normal” blood glucose is associated with decreased brain volume and cognitive performance in the 60s: the PATH through life study. PLoS One. 2013 Sep 4;8(9):e73697. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073697. PMID: 24023897; PMCID: PMC3762736.
[xix] Li H, Li S, Yang H, Zhang Y, Zhang S, Ma Y, Hou Y, Zhang X, Niu K, Borne Y, Wang Y. Association of Ultraprocessed Food Consumption With Risk of Dementia: A Prospective Cohort. Neurology. 2022 Jul 27:10.1212/WNL.0000000000200871. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200871. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35896436.
[xx] Velazquez R, Ferreira E, Knowles S, Fux C, Rodin A, Winslow W, Oddo S. Lifelong choline supplementation ameliorates Alzheimer’s disease pathology and associated cognitive deficits by attenuating microglia activation. Aging Cell. 2019 Dec;18(6):e13037. doi: 10.1111/acel.13037. Epub 2019 Sep 27. PMID: 31560162; PMCID: PMC6826123.
[xxi] Fortier M, Castellano CA, St-Pierre V, Myette-Côté É, Langlois F, Roy M, Morin MC, Bocti C, Fulop T, Godin JP, Delannoy C, Cuenoud B, Cunnane SC. A ketogenic drink improves cognition in mild cognitive impairment: Results of a 6-month RCT. Alzheimers Dement. 2021 Mar;17(3):543-552. doi: 10.1002/alz.12206. Epub 2020 Oct 26. PMID: 33103819; PMCID: PMC8048678.
[xxii] Phillips MCL, Deprez LM, Mortimer GMN, Murtagh DKJ, McCoy S, Mylchreest R, Gilbertson LJ, Clark KM, Simpson PV, McManus EJ, Oh JE, Yadavaraj S, King VM, Pillai A, Romero-Ferrando B, Brinkhuis M, Copeland BM, Samad S, Liao S, Schepel JAC. Randomized crossover trial of a modified ketogenic diet in Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers Res Ther. 2021 Feb 23;13(1):51. doi: 10.1186/s13195-021-00783-x. PMID: 33622392; PMCID: PMC7901512.