Superfoods & Nutrition

5 Dietary Habits That Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease

5 Dietary Habits That Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease

With people living longer, the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to skyrocket. Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating disease that robs victims of their short-term memory and families of their loved ones. Over time, this insidious form of dementia gradually progresses to the point that individuals afflicted with Alzheimer’s can no longer care for themselves.

We know diet impacts the risk of developing a number of common health problems including type 2-diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Not surprisingly, the dietary choices you make also influences your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. It’s good to know that making the right dietary choices offers some protection. Discover five dietary habits that may reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease and help you enjoy better brain health.

Say No to Trans-Fat

Not only does trans-fat increase your risk for heart disease, it’s hard on your brain cells too. Trans-fats increase oxidative stress, a process which damages cells, particularly metabolically active brain cells – and that may do more than increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease. It might make you more forgetful!

One study showed men who consumed the most trans-fats performed worse on memory tests.  Although trans-fats are slowly being phased out of many packaged foods, read the label and make sure partially hydrogenated oils of any types aren’t on there. Better yet, stick with whole foods.

Reduce Your Exposure to Aluminum

For years, scientists have explored a link between aluminum in the brain and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Although it’s still not proven, studies show that aluminum seems to promote formation of amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. While this doesn’t necessarily show aluminum exposure CAUSES Alzheimer’s disease, it does raise red flags. Anecdotal evidence also suggests aluminum is problematic for brain health. Relatively young people exposed to high levels of aluminum in occupational settings have developed symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

How can you avoid excess exposure to aluminum?

.   Choose an antiperspirant that doesn’t contain aluminum

.   Don’t cook or eat out of aluminum pans or dishes

.   Avoid eating foods out of aluminum cans

.   Don’t take aluminum-containing antacids

.   Eat whole foods. Food packaging often contains aluminum

.   Avoid wrapping foods, particularly acidic foods like tomatoes, in aluminum foil

Watch Your Iron Consumption

Yes, you need a certain amount of iron in your diet for healthy red blood cells, but women need less iron after menopause because they’re no longer losing iron through regular menstrual bleeding. Researchers now believe iron may play a role in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Iron at high levels acts as a pro-oxidant that can damage tissues. Research shows iron may damage myelin, the protective sheath that covers nerve cells, and degrade the ability of nerve cells to carry information.

 How can you avoid excessive iron build-up?

1. Don’t take an iron supplement or multivitamin with iron unless you need it.

2. After menopause, reduce the amount of red meat and other iron-rich foods you eat. Choose more plant-based protein sources.

3.   Get an iron panel checked every few years to make sure you’re in the proper range. Some people have an iron storage disease called hemochromatosis that causes high iron levels and don’t even know it.  If your iron levels are higher than they should be, a simple way to lower it, and do something good at the same time, is to donate blood.

Make Healthy Carb Choices

Researchers at Brown University call Alzheimer’s disease “type 3 diabetes” due to its link with insulin resistance, a condition where cells become resistant to the effects of insulin the pancreas produces. When insulin resistance rears its ugly head, the pancreas has to work harder to pump out more insulin, leading to a high insulin state.

Many, but not all, people with insulin resistance are overweight or obese. Alzheimer’s disease is also closely linked with type 2 diabetes. A study published in the journal Neurology, found diabetics are more than two times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as those without diabetes.

Diet plays a role in fueling insulin resistance. Refined carbs and carbohydrates that are low in fiber place added stress on the pancreas to produce more insulin. Give your pancreas a break and lower your risk for Alzheimer’s disease by eliminating sugar and refined carbs from your diet. Replace them with more whole foods, particularly antioxidant-rich  fruits and veggies. Just as importantly, exercise daily to improve how cells respond to insulin and lose weight if you’re overweight.

 Eat the “MIND” Diet

According to a recent study, a diet appropriately dubbed the MIND diet may lower your risk for Alzheimer’s disease. After studying more than 1,000 people, researchers showed following this diet lowers the risk for Alzheimer’s disease by 53%. What is a MIND diet? It advocates eating these foods:




Whole grains



Olive oil

And avoiding these foods:


Fried foods

Fast food

Sugary foods like cookie or pastries


In many ways, the MIND diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet, a diet that lowers the risk for heart disease AND mortality, according to research. You can’t go wrong following a Mediterranean diet or the MIND diet. Both eating plans are brain friendly and heart healthy.

The Bottom Line

Yes, Alzheimer’s is a scary disease, but there ARE things you can do to lower your risk and changing your diet is one of them. Making smart dietary choices can improve your health in many ways. Take advantage of it!


References: ‘Culinary Culprits: Foods That May Harm the Brain” Jan. 30, 2014.

Live Science. “MIND Your Diet and Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease”

CNS Drugs. 2003;17(1):27-45.

Biomed Res Int. 2013; 2013: 524820.

Medical Daily. “Does Iron Cause Alzheimer’s? Accumulation Of Iron In Brain Could Disrupt Neuronal Communication, Causing Disease To Develop”

Dr. Andrew Weil. “Excess Iron: A Health Risk?”

Science Daily. “Aluminum: Its likely contribution to Alzheimer’s disease” October 13, 2014.

Front Aging Neurosci. 2014; 6: 62.Published online 2014 Apr 8. doi:  10.3389/fnagi.2014.00062.

Medical News Today. “High consumption of trans fats linked to poorer memory in men” November 20, 2014.

Live Science. “MIND Your Diet and Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease”


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