Can We End Alzheimer’s

PCRM

Can We End Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is the fastest growing health threat in the United States, according to a new landmark report from researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The numbers are staggering. A 2013 study in the journal Neurology found that the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease will jump from 4.7 million to 13.8 million by 2050. Associated health care costs will skyrocket from $200 billion to more than $1 trillion by 2050, increasing the cost of Medicaid and Medicare by 500 percent.

The disease is incurable. But research is at a critical turning point and shows that diet and exercise can play crucial roles in reducing the odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Fighting Debilitating Memory Loss
The latest scientific findings show that diet and lifestyle changes can create a barrier against cognitive decline.

Researchers from the Chicago Health and Aging Project analyzed the diets of thousands of people over years. The findings are groundbreaking: Saturated “bad” fat—found in milk, cheese, and meat—is strongly linked to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, increasing risk more than threefold. Trans fats increase risk fivefold. Avoiding these fats can cut risk dramatically.

Foods rich in vitamin E, such as broccoli, walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds, also reduced dementia risk by as much as 70 percent. Other studies show that foods overly rich in iron or copper can promote cognitive loss, while folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 may help protect the memory.

This brain-healthy diet is almost identical to the diet that helps prevent stroke, heart disease, obesity, and other chronic diseases: a low-fat diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Combining this with physical and mental exercise, and avoiding harmful toxins such as aluminum in supplements or cookware, can maximize protection for the brain.

Power Foods for the Brain’s Brain-Boosting Diet
Power Foods for the BrainPower Foods for the Brain, the latest book by Physicians Committee president and nutrition researcher Neal Barnard, M.D., presents this latest, compelling research on nutrition’s surprising effects on the brain. Dr. Barnard lays out a three-step plan to protect the mind and strengthen the memory: Put power foods to work, strengthen your brain, and defeat memory threats. The book also includes 75 power-food recipes, sample mental stimulation exercises, guides to choosing aluminum-free foods and medicines, and a guide to physical exercise.

Learn more about brain health and purchase Power Foods for the Brain at PCRM.org/Brain.

Brain Threats
Saturated fats, found in meats, dairy products, and eggs appear to encourage the production of beta-amyloid plaques within the brain. The Chicago Health and Aging Study reported in the Archives of Neurology in 2003 that people consuming the most saturated fat had more than triple the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, compared with people who generally avoided these foods.
Trans fats, found in doughnuts and snack pastries, have been shown to increase Alzheimer’s risk more than fivefold. These “bad fats” raise cholesterol levels and apparently increase production of the beta-amyloid protein that collects in plaques in the brain as Alzheimer’s disease begins.
Excess iron can build up in the brain, sparking the production of damaging free radicals. Sources of excess iron include cast-iron cookware, meats, and iron supplements.
Excess copper impairs cognition—even in mid-adulthood—and ends up in the plaques of Alzheimer’s disease. It comes from copper pipes and nutritional supplements.
Aluminum has been found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, so it pays to err on the side of caution. Avoid uncoated aluminum cookware and read labels when buying baking powder, antacids, and processed foods.
Brain-Protecting Foods
Nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin E, which has been shown to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Especially good sources are almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and flaxseed. Just 1 ounce—a small handful—each day is plenty.
Blueberries and grapes get their deep colors from anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants shown to improve learning and recall in studies at the University of Cincinnati.
Sweet potatoes are the dietary staple of Okinawans, the longest-lived people on Earth, who are also known for maintaining mental clarity into old age. Sweet potatoes are extremely rich in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant.
Green leafy vegetables provide iron in a form that is more absorbable when the body needs more and less absorbable when you already have plenty, protecting you from iron overload which can harm the brain. Green vegetables are also loaded with folate, an important brain-protecting B-vitamin.
Beans and chickpeas have vitamin B6 and folate, as well as protein and calcium, with no saturated fat or trans fat.
Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy nerves and brain cells. While many people have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from foods, B12 in supplements is highly absorbable. Together, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 eliminate homocysteine, which can build up in the bloodstream—rather like factory waste—and damage the brain.

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How to Cut Risk of Cognitive Impairment in Half

How to Cut Risk of Cognitive Impairment in Half

Optimal vitamin D levels help maintain normal brain signaling to assist with memory

brain-notesThis article originally appeared on Live in the Now.

As newly diagnosed cases of dementia and cognitive decline continue to grow at a staggering rate in the U.S. and western cultures, a growing body of evidence is amassing to support the fact that this is not a normal part of aging, and progression and development of this devastating condition can be avoided by engaging in healthy lifestyle practices and ensuring a daily intake of essential nutrients in optimal dosages, especially with respect to vitamin D.

Over the past decade, volumes of newly minted research studies have clearly demonstrated the critical need for vitamin D saturation among the trillions of cells that work in concert to achieve vibrant health and prevent disease.

Extensive work from prior scientific and nutritional studies have shown how individuals who maintain the highest levels of vitamin D as measured by common blood testing dramatically lower their risk of developing many potentially fatal forms of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. Now, researchers at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School have found an association between low vitamin D levels and cognitive impairment in an elderly cohort of men and women in China with an average age of 85 years.

Publishing in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that vitamin D appears to boost the machinery that helps recycle and repackage signaling chemicals to help neurons communicate with one another in a part of the brain that is central to memory and learning. Lead study author, Dr. Nada Porter noted of supplementation with the sunshine vitamin that “This process is like restocking shelves in grocery stores.”

The scientists noted that vitamin D helped enable neurons to better receive and process the electrical and chemical signals that help to store and retrieve memory, a process that becomes increasingly disabled with many forms of dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease. A critical finding of the study was that after adjusting for various factors such as age, gender, chronic conditions, smoking and drinking habits, those with decreased vitamin D levels were associated with almost twice as much risk of cognitive impairment compared to those with higher levels.

Most people understand that that we naturally make vitamin D with skin exposure to the ultraviolet rays from the sun. Unfortunately with the excessive use of sunscreen products and limited time spent in direct contact with the sun, very few people actually produce sufficient vitamin D to raise blood saturation levels. Furthermore, researchers have found that as we age, our natural ability to properly convert ultraviolet sun energy to vitamin D is dramatically diminished by as much as 50 percent by age 50.

Scientists conducting this study concluded, “The point is that as a population ages, they’re more likely to be vitamin D deficient and that’s associated with health-related consequences. There has to be a move on what needs to be done about it.” Daily supplementation with vitamin D (most people require 5,000 to 10,000 IU per day) may be necessary depending on age, sun exposure, weight and ethnicity to achieve an optimal blood saturation level and help avert the devastating course of many chronic conditions, including memory loss and cognitive decline.

Subscribe to the free Live in the Now newsletter here!

Dietary Guidelines for Alzheimer’s Prevention

Dietary Guidelines for Alzheimer’s Prevention

Seven dietary and lifestyle guidelines to boost brain health and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s are available as an online advance on May 16, 2014, as a special supplement in Neurobiology of Aging.

“Alzheimer’s disease isn’t a natural part of aging,” notes lead author Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the nonprofit Physicians Committee and an adjunct professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine. “By staying active and moving plant-based foods to the center of our plates, we have a fair shot at rewriting our genetic code for this heart-wrenching , and costly, disease.”

Alzheimer’s Disease International predicts Alzheimer’s rates will triple worldwide by 2050. The Alzheimer’s Association predicts long-term care costs start at $41,000 per year.

7 guidelines to reduce risk of Alzheimer's disease

The seven guidelines to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease are:

  1. Minimize your intake of saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fat is found primarily in dairy products, meats, and certain oils (coconut and palm oils). Trans fats are found in many snack pastries and fried foods and are listed on labels as “partially hydrogenated oils.”
  2. Eat plant-based foods. Vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), fruits, and whole grains should replace meats and dairy products as primary staples of the diet.
  3. Consume 15 milligrams of vitamin E, from foods, each day.Vitamin E should come from foods, rather than supplements. Healthful food sources of vitamin E include seeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains. Note: The RDA for vitamin E is 15 milligrams per day.
  4. Take a B12 supplement. A reliable source of B12, such as fortified foods or a supplement providing at least the recommended daily allowance (2.4 micrograms per day for adults), should be part of your daily diet. Note: Have your blood levels of vitamin B12 checked regularly as many factors, including age, impair absorption.
  5. Avoid vitamins with iron and copper. If using multivitamins, choose those without iron and copper, and consume iron supplements only when directed by your physician.
  6. Choose aluminum-free products. While 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.
  7. Exercise for 120 minutes each week. Include aerobic exercise in your routine, equivalent to 40 minutes of brisk walking, three times per week.

Other preventive measures, such as getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night and participating in 30 to 40 minutes of mental activity most days of the week, such as completing crossword puzzles, reading the newspaper, or learning a new language, can only help boost brain health.

“We spend trillions of dollars each year on failed drug trials,” notes study author Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., Physicians Committee director of nutrition education. “Let’s take a portion of these funds and invest in educational programs to help people learn about foods that are now clinically proven to be more effective in fighting this global epidemic.”

The preliminary guidelines to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s were formed at the International Conference on Nutrition and the Brain in Washington on July 19 and 20, 2013.

The full guidelines are available at Neurobiology of Aging.

Learn how to prevent Alzheimer’s with these seven tips for brain health.

Coconuts are for nuts only.

I Should Use Coconut Oil, Right?

By Anne Ledbetter, EdD November 21st, 2014 News21 Comments

A quick Internet search reveals that coconut oil must be a super healthy food. The health benefit claims include: increased endurance, reversing Alzheimer’s, stress relief, weight loss, bone strength, skin care and more. Of course coconut oil belongs on my healthful food shopping list, right? Not so fast.

Beyond what folks selling products want us to consider, some vegans and even plant-based foodies believe that using coconut oil has got to be healthy because after all, a coconut is a plant. In their natural unprocessed state coconuts, corn and olives are all plants. However, a serving of highly refined plant (even organic) oil is quite different than taking a bite of fleshy coconut meat, eating niblets of corn, or popping an olive in my mouth.

This explains why many science based, optimal health advocates such as Dr.’s T. Colin and Thomas M. Campbell, authors of The China Study use a more specific term a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet. WF takes the level of food processing into consideration. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, advocates a no oil WFPB diet and lifestyle.

Dr. Esselstyn’s mantra is “NO OIL!” How can he be so emphatic? Could it be that vegetable oils have absolutely no: fiber, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals, or essential fats? Is it possible that a lot of calories and an abundance of saturated fat lurk in the fatty “healing elixir?” Maybe it’s because oil injures the endothelium, the innermost lining of the artery, the ‘gateway to vascular disease.’ Matthew Lederman MD, co-author of Keep It Simple Keep It Whole, strongly supports the no oil WFPB diet as well.

If interested in learning more about coconut oil, be sure to check out Dr. Ledermans’s article from our Plant Based Nutrition Certificate Program. Dr. Lederman describes medium chain fatty acids (MCFA’s) and “why vegetable oils are better used for lubricating vehicles and skin than consuming as food”.

Dr.’s Campbell, Esselstyn and Lederman are T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies faculty.

Image Credit: Alex Masters / Flickr

What Are Phytosterols?

What Are Phytosterols?

Phytosterols can help keep your heart and brain young. Find out which foods contain them and how much you need.

By

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,

November 19, 2013
 http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/health-fitness/healthy-eating/know-your-nutrients/what-are-phytosterols?page=all

Episode #260

The word “phytosterol” may be unfamiliar but you’ve probably been eating them your whole life.

At least I hope you have!

Because a diet rich in phytosterols is a great way to reduce your risk of heart disease. And now, researchers suspect that phytosterols also play a role in prevention of Alzheimer’s disease as well.

Read on to learn more.

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What Are Sterols?

The word “phyto” means plant, of course. But what does “sterol” mean? Sterols are a family of molecules with a specific shape and structure. Phytosterols are sterols found in plants. The sterols you find in animals are called zoosterols and the best-known of these is cholesterol. And here’s where the link between phytosterols and heart disease comes into play.

How Do Phytosterols Protect Your Heart and Brain?

Stimagsterol appears to inhibit the formation of the beta-amyloid protein that builds up in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s.

Phytosterols and cholesterol are similar enough in structure that they are absorbed through the same mechanisms—and only so many molecules are going to get through the gate. When your diet is high in phytosterols, you absorb less cholesterol. This can lead to lower LDL (or, “bad”) cholesterol levels and and a reduced risk of heart disease.

See also: Eat More of These Foods to Lower Your Cholesterol

Even better, new research suggests that phytosterols may also help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s. One phytosterol in particular, called stimagsterol, appears to inhibit the formation of the beta-amyloid protein that builds up in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s. The research is still preliminary; we have to see if it works as well in people as it does in animals. But if stigmasterol can help protect our brains as well as our hearts, that will be a welcome bonus!

Where Do You Get Phytosterols?

Pistachios, peanuts, sunflower and sesame seeds, split peas, wheat germ, and canola oil are all particularly good sources, but virtually all nuts, seeds, and legumes contain decent amounts of phytosterols. Some fruits and vegetables, including berries, broccoli, Brusells sprouts, and avocado are also good sources. You can also buy foods, such as butter spreadspeanut butter, mayonnaise, and even orange juice, that have been fortified with extra phytosterols.

Vegetarians tend to have higher intake of phytosterols than meat-eaters, probably because they tend to eat more vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.  That could be part of the reason that heart disease rates are lower in vegetarians.

See also: Should You Be a Vegetarian?

 

Of course, you could just go to the vitamin store and pick up a bottle of phytosterol supplements but I would much prefer that you get these nutrients from foods rather than pills. Why? Because foods that are high in phytosterols tend to be high in other nutrients that also protect your health, such as fiber and antioxidants. Eating nuts and legumes is also linked with a healthy body weight, which further protects you from disease. Finally, when you get your phytosterols from whole foods, it’s pretty hard to overdo it. Not so with supplements.

The Case Against Supplements

Extracting individual nutrients from foods and putting them into pills makes it easy to ensure consistently high intakes, no matter what you eat. But isolated nutrients don’t always have the same benefits as they do in a whole food context. Often, some critical co-nutrient is inadvertently left behind. Sometimes taking concentrated amounts of single nutrients leads to imbalances or overloads. Most importantly, when we rely on supplements to supply our nutrients, we rob ourselves of all the collateral benefits of a whole foods diet.

See also: Can You Get Too Many Vitamins?

A high intake of phytosterols can lower your cholesterol, for example, but it can also lower your beta-carotene levels. In the context of a diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables, this is unlikely to cause a problem. But adding a phytosterol supplement to a diet that’s deficient in fruits and vegetables might. Very high levels of phytosterols have even been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. So let’s not assume that if a little is good, a whole lot more will be a whole lot better!

How Much Phytosterol Do You Need?

The cholesterol-lowering benefits of phytosterols appear to peak about about 2,000 mg per day. That’s probably more than you’ll be able to get from diet alone. (Typical intakes max out around 500mg per day.) I still recommend eating phytosterol-rich foods on a regular basis, but if you’re trying to maximize the cholesterol-lowering effect, you might want to add a phytosterol-fortified food to the mix. Check with your doctor to see what target range she recommends. And don’t forget to load up on the fruits and vegetables for extra beta-carotene.

See also: How to Get More Vegetables Into Your Diet

For those who aren’t worried about their cholesterol, enjoying nuts, seeds, legumes, wheat germ, and avocado is a great (and delicious) way to get the protective benefits of phytosterols, along with the many other benefits of these nutritious, whole foods.

Keep In Touch

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Please Pass the Turmeric

Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, is often found in curries and other spicy dishes from India, Asia, and the Middle East. The spice contains a compound called curcumin that has been used by Ayurveda practitioners for centuries to treat a variety of ailments.

SampliSuper Food: Let's Talk Tumericng of Studies

In 2012, a study published in AYU, An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda, reported on three Alzheimer’s patients exhibiting irritability, anxiety, and agitation among other symptoms. Findings indicated that behavioral issues had improved significantly after being treated with less than a gram of turmeric daily for a period of three months. The study concluded turmeric, when combined with routine therapy, increased quality of life and improved performance of activities of daily living in patients studied.

Several years ago, ethnobotanist James A. Duke, Ph.D., published a comprehensive summary of over 700 turmeric studies that support the Ayurveda research. This herbal antidote was found to counteract symptoms of Alzheimer’s by blocking formation of beta-amyloid, the sticky protein substance believed to have a hand in cell and tissue loss indicative of an Alzheimer’s brain. In addition, turmeric reduced inflammation of neural tissue associated with the disease.

The Journal of Neuroscience had also previously published a study that supports the AYU findings, calling the alternative treatment promising. Tests conducted on mice suggested that the herb did indeed reduce plaques in the brain.

Please Pass the Turmeric

So the logical question is, how do we get turmeric into our diet? The most obvious way, of course, is to enjoy curry dishes as often as possible. Also consider adding a bit to your smoothie or whipping up some turmeric tea. We found the following recipe on Dr. Andrew Weil’s website. He suggests experimenting with ingredients until you find a pleasing balance of flavors:

Dr. Weil’s Turmeric Tea:

  1. Bring four cups of water to a boil.
  2. Add one teaspoon of ground turmeric and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Strain the tea through a fine sieve into a cup. Add honey, ginger, and/or lemon to taste.

Ground turmeric is commonly used, but Weil suggests experimenting with freshly grated turmeric for a little added zing. Supplements are also available in tablet and soft gel form and can typically be found wherever vitamins are purchased.

The Debate on Alternative Treatments

Efficacy of natural treatments is a hot topic, and no matter which side you’re on, this discussion often results in intense debate. As with coconut oil, for everything you read that touts its effectiveness, you’ll likely find something that disputes that claim.

One statistic that bodes well for this herbal treatment is that India has one of the world’s lowest rates of Alzheimer’s. Could that be directly correlated to the country’s high consumption of turmeric? No one knows, but there are ongoing trials studying this very subject, and it’s likely we’ll be hearing more. Until then, always discuss any potential treatments with your physician. Even natural, alternative treatments can cause negative interactions with prescribed medications.

7 Tips to Boost Brain Health

NEWS RELEASE May 16, 2014

International Researchers Identify Seven Dietary and Lifestyle Guidelines for Alzheimer’s Prevention

 

 

WASHINGTON—Seven dietary and lifestyle guidelines to boost brain health and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s are available as an online advance on May 16, 2014, as a special supplement in Neurobiology of Aging.

“Alzheimer’s disease isn’t a natural part of aging,” notes lead author Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the nonprofit Physicians Committee and an adjunct professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine. “By staying active and moving plant-based foods to the center of our plates, we have a fair shot at rewriting our genetic code for this heart-wrenching , and costly, disease.”

Alzheimer’s Disease International predicts Alzheimer’s rates will triple worldwide by 2050. The Alzheimer’s Association predicts long-term care costs start at $41,000 per year.

7 guidelines to reduce risk of Alzheimer's disease

The seven guidelines to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease are:

  1. Minimize your intake of saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fat is found primarily in dairy products, meats, and certain oils (coconut and palm oils). Trans fats are found in many snack pastries and fried foods and are listed on labels as “partially hydrogenated oils.”
  2. Eat plant-based foods. Vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), fruits, and whole grains should replace meats and dairy products as primary staples of the diet.
  3. Consume 15 milligrams of vitamin E, from foods, each day.Vitamin E should come from foods, rather than supplements. Healthful food sources of vitamin E include seeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains. Note: The RDA for vitamin E is 15 milligrams per day.
  4. Take a B12 supplement. A reliable source of B12, such as fortified foods or a supplement providing at least the recommended daily allowance (2.4 micrograms per day for adults), should be part of your daily diet. Note: Have your blood levels of vitamin B12 checked regularly as many factors, including age, impair absorption.
  5. Avoid vitamins with iron and copper. If using multivitamins, choose those without iron and copper, and consume iron supplements only when directed by your physician.
  6. Choose aluminum-free products. While 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.
  7. Exercise for 120 minutes each week. Include aerobic exercise in your routine, equivalent to 40 minutes of brisk walking, three times per week.

Other preventive measures, such as getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night and participating in 30 to 40 minutes of mental activity most days of the week, such as completing crossword puzzles, reading the newspaper, or learning a new language, can only help boost brain health.

“We spend trillions of dollars each year on failed drug trials,” notes study author Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., Physicians Committee director of nutrition education. “Let’s take a portion of these funds and invest in educational programs to help people learn about foods that are now clinically proven to be more effective in fighting this global epidemic.”

The preliminary guidelines to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s were formed at the International Conference on Nutrition and the Brain in Washington on July 19 and 20, 2013.

The full guidelines are available at Neurobiology of Aging.

Learn how to prevent Alzheimer’s with these seven tips for brain health.

For an advance copy of the Dietary and Lifestyle Guidelines for the Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease or to interview one of the study authors, please contact Jessica Frost at jfrost@pcrm.org or 202-527-7342.