Dr. Fortanasce - The Anti-Alzheimer's Prescription

Dr. Fortanasce – The Anti-Alzheimer’s Prescription

Introduction – Food For Thought

One summer, I spent an evening at the home of former Major League baseball pitcher two time World Series champion manager Tommy Lasorda, where we sat in front of a huge screen TV with the backdrop of the Los Angeles Dodgers playing the San Diego Padres. With his eyes fixated on the television screen, Tommy listened as I explained the Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet to him and his wife Jo. After about 20 minutes of my Anti-Alzheimer’s diatribe, talking about the Golden Dozen (the 12 brain-boosting foods I recommend on the diet) and the Harmonic Method of eating (eating 1/3 distribution of calories from good fat, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates throughout the day) my dear friend Tommy looked me in the eyes and said, “Just do it, Vince. Give me the diet. Tell me what to eat.”

If you knew Tommy Lasorda, you’d know that the only thing bigger than his appetite is his heart! Today in his 80’s, Tommy moves at incredible speed and is constantly on the road, whether speaking to thousands on behalf of the National Prostate Cancer Association or giving motivational talks to Little League coaches at remote baseball fields in San Bernardino, California. Certainly not one to spend hours poring over a diet plan, Tommy wanted me to hand him a “plain and simple” version of the Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet all wrapped up with a bow. “Just tell me what I have to do, Vince. Lay it out in plain language.” I did that for him and in this article, I’ll do it for you, too.

About a month after our first discussion of the Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet, when Tommy and I met for lunch, I discovered that while Tommy was eating the specific foods on the Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet, he was not eating them in the right proportions. He didn’t understand the science behind balancing insulin levels for a bigger brain or why he was eating specific foods high in antioxidants, folic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids.. On the other hand, his wife Jo had studied all the reasons for the program and understood the scientific substantiation, including why it was important to select foods to keep insulin levels balanced for better brain health. Jo was thrilled with the Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet and said she felt better than she had in years.

As a neurologist, I must tell you that it’s “neuro-psychologically proven” that a diet cannot become a true lifestyle change unless you understand the rationale behind it. An intriguing study done at Yale confirmed that when the rationale of a diet plan was explained to participants, more than 55% were still compliant one month later. This number is compared to only 20% of those participants who were still compliant to the diet after one month, yet had been given no explanation.

The excitement of starting a new diet and lifestyle program may keep your interest briefly – for a day or two. Nevertheless, without long-term motivation – and an understanding of “why” you are making the changes, the plan will be lost in life’s daily demands and distractions.

This diet plan differs from so many others because it depends on eating specific brain-boosting foods-and the right proportions of these foods using the Harmonic Method-not just eating a low-calorie or low-fat or a low-carb diet. Let me explain.

The Insulin-Glucagon Balance and Your Brain

In another of my articles on Alzheimer’s, I introduced the concept of the Hormonal Symphony with insulin as the preeminent conductor. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas that promotes the storage of calories, increases fat stores, and regulates blood glucose (sugars) levels in the body.

By eating the Golden Dozen and the prescribed combination of the recommended good fats, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates (the Harmonic Method), you will maintain normal levels of insulin and blood glucose levels while maximizing special hormones called glucagons. Glucagons are made in the pancreas and raise the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood by releasing stored glucose from the liver. Glucagons are essential for brain health and for keeping insulin, the conductor of your hormonal symphony, in control. Here’s how it works.

When you eat lean protein (fish, lentils, skinless chicken or turkey, or soy protein), glucagon is excreted rather than insulin. The excretion of glucagons converts protein and fat into glucose. On the other hand, if you feast on simple carbohydrates (sugary pastries or candy, white potatoes, white flour, white pasta), only insulin is excreted. When glucagons use protein and fats to produce sugar, they burn many more calories than the direct use of simple carbohydrates. The consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugars is like pouring jet fuel into the blood stream. Rather than a gradual increase in glucose caused by the proper combination of lean protein, good fats, and complex carbohydrates, we get an immediate high from refined sugars injected into the blood stream. This kicks the pancreas to produce high levels of insulin in an attempt to regulate the high blood glucose level. Some of the blood glucose will go for energy consumption, which is needed by the muscles and other body organs. The rest is converted to fat. So, high insulin equals increased fat.

Simple Carbs Can Lead to Alzheimer’s

If you eat an imbalanced diet high in simple carbohydrates long enough, your body becomes less responsive to the action of insulin. Your blood sugar levels soar despite high levels of insulin and the excess blood glucose is converted into fat (belly fat around the waistline). This leads to insulin resistance syndrome, type 2 diabetes, elevated cholesterol, higher LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower HDL (good) cholesterol, and increased triglycerides.

High sugars or glucose in the blood will damage the nerves and small blood vessels of the eyes, kidneys, and heart and predispose you to atherosclerosis (hardening) of the large arteries that can cause heart attack, stroke, and lead to Alzheimer’s disease. The high insulin levels also affect the insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE) that exists in the brain. This key enzyme removes beta amyloid, the toxic protein that produces Alzheimer’s disease. When insulin levels in the body remain high, the insulin-degrading enzyme works overtime removing insulin rather than deleting the beta amyloid proteins. If this happens repeatedly and the insulin levels in your body remain high for a length of time, there is a slow, inexorable accumulation of beta amyloid in your brain, which can result in Alzheimer’s. This is analogous to what smoking cigarettes does to your lungs.

The Balanced Harmonic Method Protects Your Brain

The Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet is based on the Harmonic Method — a balanced 1/3rd – 1/3rd – 1/3rd distribution of calories throughout the day from good fat, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates. This balanced proportion of good fat, lean protein, and complex carbs prevents levels of insulin from getting too high. With too much insulin in the body, you feel exhausted and you get fat. Yet too little insulin in the body leaves you feeling weak and sick. When insulin, the conductor of your hormonal symphony, stays balanced in normal ranges, you feel great and live healthier, longer, and smarter! Balanced levels of insulin lead to optimal brain health.

If you’ve taken the health of your brain for granted up until now, I hope to convince you right now in this step to start feeding your brain the proper nutrients in the proper proportions so your brain stays vital and healthy-for the rest of your life.

What Is the Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet?

The Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet is a sensible diet that’s high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, folate and other crucial brain boosting nutrients. It’s also high in good fats-oily fish, olive oil, nuts, flax seeds, and other heart-healthy fats-and lean protein and complex carbohydrates, which are distributed throughout the day to maintain normal blood sugar levels. The Anti-Alzheimer’s diet does not recommend starchy foods such as white bread, white pasta, or white rice-all foods that are digested into sugar within minutes of eating them. The refined starches and concentrated sugars raise blood sugar quickly, which can lead to overeating and weight gain.

Not only will the Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet help you prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but it will help you manage your weight and prevent obesity, lower your blood pressure and lipids, and reduce the likelihood of diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes that lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

The Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet is a Mediterranean-Style Diet

The Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet is a Mediterranean-style diet as it encourages fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and other lean protein, nuts and seeds, legumes, unrefined whole grains, olive oil and other good fats, low fat dairy products such as yogurt and natural cheese. With this Mediterranean-style diet, you avoid red meat, sugary desserts, and processed foods.

Some background: when researchers at Columbia University analyzed the diets of 1,984 people averaging 76.3 years of age and scored them from one to nine – they realized that the higher the score, the closer the participant’s diet was to the Mediterranean diet. The Columbia study concluded that the risk of Alzheimer’s was lowest among those people with the highest scores-those diets that were most like the Mediterranean diet. For each point on the diet scorecard, the risk of Alzheimer’s dropped by 19 to 24 percent – so, for example, if you scored a six, your risk would be 19 to 24 percent lower than someone who scored a five. Those who scored in the top one-third had a 68 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s than those in the lower one-third.

The Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet is a “Good Fat” Diet

In the late 1960s, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a report that coronary artery disease was associated with cholesterol and cholesterol was associated with foods high in fat. Their conclusion? All fat is bad. In later reports, they warned that we must reduce or eliminate fats and even protein, which was often laced with fats, and we must maximize carbohydrates. Eat those carbs, they thought, and don’t touch fat! And with little knowledge of human physiology, the NIH gave this “low fat diet” mandate to the USDA.

The resulting industrial machine pumped out tons of low fat, high sugar, carbohydrate-laden cereals, which were marketed and fed to the youth, namely us — the baby boomers. The consequence of low-fat dieting has been an unprecedented increase in hypertension, metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance syndrome), type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease in those under age 65. The USDA did not consider that our bodies assimilate food no differently today than we did 10,000 years ago, when all we had to eat were fat, protein, vegetables, and berries –not refined sugar and white breads. Sugar and white flour streams glucose throughout the body, peaking insulin, and provoking amyloid deposits and free radicals in the brain. The excess carbohydrates and fatty acids are part of the free radicals that are like scavenger molecules attacking cell membranes and causing early aging to organs like the skin, heart, and liver. The USDA, in a rushed effort to help, crated a Titanic food pyramid that has sunk many into a life of Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. We are only now seeing the tip of the iceberg.

In the Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet, you’ll eat monounsaturated fat that comes from oils that are liquid at room temperature, or better still from plant foods (olives, flaxseed, nuts, and avocados);omega-3 fats, the highly polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish (anchovy, sardines, shad, mackerel, tuna, and salmon), flaxseed, and nuts; and polyunsaturated fat that comes from oils that are liquid or soft at room temperature, including corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower, and sesame oils.

The Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet Recommends Foods Low on the Glycemic Index

The glycemic index is a numerical system that ranks carbohydrate-rich foods by how much they raise blood glucose levels compared to glucose (or white bread). This numerical system ranks foods on a scale of 0 to 100, according to their effect on blood glucose (sugar) levels. Foods that raise your blood glucose level quickly have a higher glycemic index ranking than foods that raise your blood glucose level more slowly. The Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet encourages you to eat foods low on the glycemic index to keep levels of blood glucose balanced and to prevent insulin surges.

Foods that are low on the glycemic index (fruits, vegetables low in starch, low-fat dairy, low-fat protein, legumes, nuts, seeds, and unrefined whole grains) will release slowly into you’re your blood, helping to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Foods high on the glycemic index (white pasta, white bread, white rice, white potatoes, refined grains, sugary desserts) will cause blood glucose levels to rise rapidly as there’s a high response of insulin. Insulin then works fast to deposit the excess blood sugar into your muscle cells in the form of glycogen. When all your glycogen stores are full, the rest of the blood sugar is stored as fat. When you eat foods high on the glycemic index, it causes blood sugar to spike and then quickly fall to subnormal levels. This is why you feel energetic and then exhausted and starving after eating a high glycemic index meal.

If you are insulin resistant, eating foods high on the glycemic index may result in making you hungrier, causing you to gain weight and increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration, and type 2 diabetes. Foods pure in protein and fat (such as lean chicken, and fish, egg whites) have a low glycemic index while a baked potato has a glycemic index of 85.

Lean protein, which is low on the glycemic index, helps to regulate the critical hormonal insulin-glucagon balance. As insulin slowly breaks down the protein you eat into glucose, glucagon is excreted by the pancreas. In addition, glucagon doesn’t turn excess glucose to fat as insulin does. In fact, glucagon can convert fat to glucose while using up stores of fat. In doing this, it burns far more calories. Imagine eating succulent grilled salmon with a plate full of kale or other greens and actually losing fat and pounds at the same time!

Many studies now link memory impairment to Type 2 diabetes, which happens when the body can no longer keep blood insulin levels controlled. In the Women’s Health Study, scientists found that diabetes has an adverse effect on memory – almost like being 10 to 15 years older. Controlling blood sugar is the key. You can do that by eating foods that are low in sugar and low on the glycemic index.

I’ve given you lists of foods considered low on the glycemic index. It’s important to note that some food combinations can actually change where the food stands on the glycemic index. If a carbohydrate has fiber, it helps to decrease the glycemic load of the meal. I always tell my patients that a slice of whole grain bread has a lower glycemic load when they eat it with natural peanut butter. Why? Because the fat and protein of the peanut butter (low on the glycemic index) bring down the glycemic load of the whole grain bread.

Selecting Low Glycemic Index Foods (less than a 55 on the GI)

Based on 50 grams of digestible (available) carbohydrate in a food and then measuring the effect of the food on blood glucose levels over a two hour period.

Food Glycemic Index
Yogurt low-fat (unsweetened) 14
Artichoke 15
Asparagus 15
Broccoli 15
Cauliflower 15
Celery 15
Cucumber 15
Eggplant 15
Green beans 15
Lettuce, all varieties 15
Low-fat yogurt, artificially sweetened 15
Peanuts 15
Peppers, all varieties 15
Snow peas 15
Spinach 15
Tomatoes 15
Young summer squash 15
Zucchini 15
Soya beans, boiled 16
Cherries 22
Peas, dried 22
Grapefruit 25
Pearl barley 25
Milk, whole 27
Spaghetti, protein enriched 27
Kidney beans, boiled 29
Lentils green, boiled 29
Soya milk 30
Apricots (dried) 31
Milk, fat-free 32
Milk, skimmed 32
Chickpeas 33
Milk, semi-skimmed 34
Rye 34
Vermicelli 35
Spaghetti, whole wheat 37
Apples 38
Haricot beans, boiled 38
Pears 38
Tomato soup, canned 38
Carrots, cooked 39
Plums 39
Ravioli, meat filled 39
Black-eyed beans 41
Wheat kernels 41
All-Bran cereal 42
Chickpeas, canned 42
Peaches 42
Lentil soup, canned 44
Oranges 44
Carrot juice 45
Grapes 46
Baked beans, canned 48
Bread, multi grain 48
Rice, parboiled 48
Barley, cracked 50
Whole grain 50
Yam 51
Kidney beans, canned 52
Lentils green, canned 52
Kiwi fruit 53
Bananas 54
Sweet potato 54

Eat Antioxidants to Block Brain Disease

We have substantial evidence that implicates oxygen free radicals as mediators of inflammation and/or tissue destruction in many types of degenerative disorders. Free radicals are molecules with unstable byproducts of oxidation, the chemical process that causes iron to rust and a peeled apple or banana to turn brown. In the body, free radicals are like scavengers that cause similar deterioration, as they eat away at cell membranes and make cells vulnerable to decay and pathogens. These free radicals damage DNA and mitochondria, the basic building blocks of all tissues, and leave in their path many serious health problems, including Alzheimer’s disease.

There’s no known way to stop free radicals completely. And many recent studies indicate the increasing enormity of the problem with each cell in the body and brain being bombarded by these scavenger radicals, up to a 1,000 times per day. It is a constant battle.

We can reduce the free radicals’ destructive effects on the body by 2 methods, decreasing the intake of foods that are high in free radicals scavengers and supplementing the body’s own defenses (anabolic hormones), by eating foods high in powerful antioxidants–plant chemicals that scavenge and neutralize the free radicals, converting them to harmless molecules. As antioxidants in foods intercept free radicals in the body, they protect cells from the oxidative damage that leads to aging and also to Alzheimer’s disease. Examples of antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, the carotenoids, and the flavonoids. One National Institutes of Health study of 3,718 Chicago residents, aged 65 and older, found that compared to people who consumed less than one serving of vegetables a day, people who ate at least 2.8 servings of vegetables a day saw their rate of cognitive change slow down by 40 percent.

Antioxidants Improve Cognitive Function

Interestingly, comprehensive studies show that levels of the antioxidants vitamins A and E and the carotenoids (including beta-carotene) are very low in people with Alzheimer’s disease. To the contrary, a review of some long-term studies from Switzerland that spanned from 1971 to 1993 and involved 442 subjects aged 65 to 94, show that higher ascorbic acid and beta-carotene plasma levels are associated with better performance in terms of memory and recall. Laboratory studies in animals also support evidence that chronic antioxidant treatment can improve cognitive function during aging.

If free radical damage causes aging, then ingesting antioxidants in high enough quantities should be able to slow aging. Ironically, you don’t have to eat tons of foods high in antioxidants to slow down brain aging! For instance, studies have shown that eating just 3/4 cup of blueberries per day can turn back the clock dramatically.

We think the antioxidants vitamins C and E reduce damage caused by beta-amyloid. Although we’re not totally sure how these antioxidants work to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s, we do know that vitamin C cleans up free radicals, preventing them from damaging DNA, helps control inflammation, aids in wound healing, and wards off infection. Vitamin E is important for the maintenance of cell membranes, and many metabolic processes in the body are dependent upon healthy cell membranes-including the recuperation and growth of muscle cells. In scientific studies, those participants with the highest vitamin E intakes were more than 40 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease; those with the highest vitamin C intake were more than 30 percent less likely to develop the Alzheimer’s. In the Rotterdam Study, a population-based study of 7,983 people aged 55 or older conducted in the Netherlands, researchers found that over a six-year period, those individuals who had a high dietary intake of vitamin C and vitamin E had a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies also show that the catechins from green tea help protect brain cells. Findings suggest that green tea or green tea extract may be useful in protecting humans from senile disorders (including Alzheimer’s). Green, white, and black teas are naturally rich sources of antioxidant flavonoids. Flavonoids, plant-derived antioxidants, may benefit the heart and brain by preventing low-density (LDL) oxidation, reducing inflammation, improving endothelial function, and inhibiting platelet aggregation. Some recent studies indicate that the antioxidants in tea are more powerful than the antioxidants found in many fruits and vegetables. This could mean that sipping on hot or iced green tea throughout the day may boost a bigger, healthier brain than eating platefuls of spinach!

Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet Antioxidants

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Bananas
  • Beets
  • Bell peppers
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Citrus fruits
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit, pink
  • Kale, collards or other greens
  • Kiwi
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mango
  • Melon
  • Onions
  • Oranges or orange juice
  • Pineapple
  • Plums
  • Raisins
  • Raspberries
  • Red grapes
  • Romaine or other leaf lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tea (green tea is best)
  • Tomatoes or tomato juice

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Stop Oxidative Damage

Omega-3 is found in fish and fish oils. Some recent medical studies have revealed that deficiencies of micronutrients may result in an increase in pro-inflammatory markers in the body, altered immune response, and cell destruction. Scientific findings now indicate that inflammation in the body triggers cellular destruction in the brain, either directly or indirectly–even when the inflammation is mild.

Evidence continues to support the immune-modulating properties of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Not only do omega-3 fatty acids have innumerable anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-hypertensive effects, they are crucial to the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s.

DHA is Necessary for Cognitive Function

Docosahexaenoic acid or DHA is the most prominent fatty acid in the brain and is necessary for vision and cognitive function. DHA is especially rich in the brain’s neurons. Study after study confirms that the brains of Alzheimer’s patients have a lower content of DHA in the gray matter of the frontal lobe and hippocampus than do the brains of persons without Alzheimer’s disease. DHA is definitely one fatty acid you must include in your daily diet.

As an example of the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in the prevention of Alzheimer’s, findings from the Framingham Heart Study, which tracked about 900 healthy older men and women living in Boston for about nine years, showed that persons with high plasma DHA levels had a significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s than did those with lower levels. In fact, older adults who ate the equivalent of three servings of fish weekly had about half the chance of Alzheimer’s when compared to adults who ate fish infrequently. In the Zutphen Elderly Study in the Netherlands, which followed 210 older men for five years, the men who consumed fish had less cognitive decline than men who did not consume fish. Similar results came from the Rotterdam Study in the Netherlands, where researchers found that eating fish just once a week was associated with a 60 percent reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Another recent animal study found that a diet rich in the fatty acid DHA might interfere with the abnormal clumping of beta-amyloid and tau. When these two proteins clump in the brain, lesions known as plaques and tangles form. Researchers from this study believed that DHA might confer its benefits by lowering levels of an enzyme needed to generate beta-amyloid. Likewise, findings presented at the American Psychosomatic Society’s Annual Meeting in 2007 in Budapest, Hungary reported that a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with greater volume in areas of the brain related to mood and behavior.

Omega-3s Help the Heart and Brain

Numerous findings on fish or fish oil supplements report improved triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, platelet function, endothelial and vascular function, blood pressure, cardiac excitability, measures of oxidative stress, pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines and immune function. Both EPA and DHA are constituents of the membranes of all cells in the body and are precursors of locally produced eicosanoids. Eicosanoids are powerful hormones that include prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes. They are derived from long-chain essential fatty acids that affect the synthesis of every other hormone in the body and collectively mediate almost every component of the inflammatory response. The latest findings on those who eat fish or take fish oil supplements report improved blood lipid profiles and also a reduction in blood pressure, arrhythmias, and coagulability, and improvement in endothelial function-these are all important for reducing the risk of heart disease-and brain disease.

Fish, Mercury, and Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Help or Harm?

Some recent reports from the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency warn consumers about eating fish because of the high levels of mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxins and other environmental contaminants. These reports have caused many people to be wary of fish consumption for fear of mercury toxicity. Yet we have tons of studies proving that fish contains the omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for heart and brain health, especially with aging.

According to the American Heart Association, which recommends eating fish at least twice a week for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, the benefits and risks of eating fish vary depending on your age and stage of life. As an example, young children, pregnant women and women who are nursing usually have low risk of cardiovascular disease but are at a higher risk of exposure to excessive mercury from fish. The AHA recommends that these groups avoid potentially contaminated fish. Yet for middle-aged and older men, and women after menopause, the AHA says the benefits of eating fish far outweigh the risks, which are explained in the guidelines of both the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency.

If you are a middle-aged or older man, or a woman after menopause, I encourage you to eat at least two servings a week of the following fish to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids so necessary for reducing inflammation in the body.

To help minimize the potentially adverse effects of environmental pollutants, be sure you eat a different choice of fish each week from the following list:

Fish High in Omega-3s

  • Anchovy
  • Bluefish
  • Capeline
  • Dogfish
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Salmon (wild)
  • Sardines
  • Shad
  • Sturgeon
  • Tuna (canned or fresh)
  • Whitefish

Note: Wild salmon has high levels of Omega-3s fed naturally in the environment. Atlantic or farm salmon are grown on Omega-6 grains and contain low levels of Omega-3s and are therefore not beneficial. Always check when you order salmon at a restaurant or at a store if it is farm fed. A hint is farm fed is much cheaper in price and poor in Omega-3 value. Mercury is highest in shell fish, sword fish, shark, and some tunas. It is lowest in fresh water fish.

Hold the Beef

I’ve talked a lot about eating fruits, vegetables and fish high in good fats. What’s the alternative? The other end of the nutrition/wellness spectrum reveals that a diet high in cholesterol and fatty acids may actually increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In large studies, researchers have found a definitive link between cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s in those populations with a higher dietary intake of saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol. Aim to hold the beef in your diet and focus on plant-based foods, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and fish. If you must eat meat, Buffalo and lean pork and skinless poultry are suggestions.

Folic Acid Improves Cognitive Function

There is new research that showed B vitamin supplements, including folic acid, decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which is thought to damage the inner lining of arteries. Aware for some time that high levels of homocysteine may also be associated with poor cognitive function, researchers have theorized that reducing homocysteine with folic acid may also reduce the chance of Alzheimer’s, or, better still, increase cognitive function.

While preliminary, findings published in the journal The Lancet, indicate that older adults who took folic acid supplementation over three years had improved global cognitive function with better memory and ability to process information-problems normally associated with aging. The study was part of the Folic Acid and Carotid Intima-media Thickness (FACIT) trial, and at the start, both the folic acid group and the placebo group had similar scores on a battery of tests for cognition, memory, sensorimotor speed, complex speed, information processing speed, and word fluency. However, after 3 years, researchers using a battery of tests found that the change in memory and sensorimotor speed were significantly better in those participants who supplemented their daily diet with 800 micrograms of folic acid than those in the placebo group. Sensorimotor speed measures basic speed and shows direct stimulus-response connections, whereas complex speed measures time needed for higher-order information processing. The three-year change in cognitive function in terms of information-processing speed was also significantly better in the folic acid supplementation group than in the placebo group.

Study results also determined that while folate concentrations increased by 576 percent in the participants taking folic acid, plasma total homocysteine concentrations decreased by 26 percent. Realizing that high levels of homocysteine are also linked to damage to the hippocampus-the area of the brain that’s important for memory formation-the researchers suggested that folic acid might simultaneously affect memory and sensorimotor speed.

Since both participants and researchers were unaware of the treatment, it makes the outcome of the cognitive function tests difficult to ignore, especially with participants demonstrating the following results:

  1. 4.7 years younger for memory
  2. 1.7 years younger for sensorimotor speed
  3. 2.1 years younger for information processing speed
  4. 1.5 years younger for global cognitive function.

Perhaps the most significant finding in the FACIT trial was the result for delayed memory recall (a 15-word learning test), particularly as most people associate memory loss with aging. After 3 years of supplementation with 800 micrograms of folic acid, the study participants improved their performance to be equal to a person 6 to 9 years younger.

Most patients ask me if they need to take folic acid supplements, and here’s what I tell them: if you eat plenty of vegetables, you probably have an abundance of folate in your body. However, according to the Institute on Medicine, the body only absorbs about 50 percent of food folate, while approximately 100 percent of the folic acid in a vitamin supplement is absorbed. Also, if you have a diet high in animal protein and low in fruits and leafy vegetables, you may have lower levels of folate and higher serum homocysteine levels.

In addition, because of poor diet or interactions with medications, many elderly people often have low levels of folate, which may correlate high serum homocysteine and cognitive decline. Deficiency of folate is linked to a wide variety of nervous system problems, including general mental fatigue, non-senile dementia, depression, nervous system problems in the hands and feet, irritability, forgetfulness, confusion, and insomnia-all problems which often coexist in older adults.

Foods High in Folate

  • Asparagus
  • Beans (chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, lima beans)
  • Cantaloupes
  • Citrus fruits
  • Eggs
  • Fortified grains
  • Green leafy vegetables (spinach, greens)
  • Legumes
  • Melons
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Strawberries

Putting the Program into Action: Start the Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet

I’ve simplified the Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet to these three basic tips:

Tip #1: Do a Kitchen Overhaul. Get rid of all highly processed foods, foods high in sodium (salt, MSG), and foods high in bad fats, sugar and white flour.

Tip #2: Go Shopping. Fill your refrigerator and cupboards with the Golden Dozen, along with the other recommended foods in this article.These brain-boosting foods are proven to help keep insulin levels balanced, if eaten in the proper proportions, and block inflammation and harmful free radicals in the brain.

Tip #3: Follow the Harmonic Method of Eating (the 1/3rd Proportion Rule). Use a 1/3rd, 1/3rd, 1/3rd distribution of calories from good fat, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates throughout the day.

Although I’m a strong proponent of eating whole foods to get all the available nutrients for the body, I will also recommend some necessary Anti-Alzheimer’s natural dietary supplements that you might consider taking to ensure that you get all the brain-boosting benefits you need. There is increasing scientific evidence that these supplements are crucial for preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

Tip #1: Do a Kitchen Overhaul.

Plan now to clean out your kitchen before you start the Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet. Go through your kitchen cabinets, the pantry, the refrigerator and freezer, and throw out (or giveaway) foods that are not recommended on the Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet. This includes foods that are high in saturated fats, partially hydrogenated or trans fats, and highly processed foods. You’ll also toss foods high in sugar, white flour and artificial addictives. On the other hand, keep products that contain whole grains, lean protein, good fats, and complex carbohydrates — all are broken down slowly in the body, allowing you to stay in hormonal harmony with insulin in control.

Learn How to Read the Nutrition Facts on Food Labels

It’s important to read the Nutrition Facts on food labels to get pertinent information about calories, fats, protein, fiber, specific vitamins and minerals, and ingredients. This information is located on the outside of the package and is easy to read.

Check Out the Serving Size

Starting with the top of the Nutrition Facts, you will read the serving size (such as 1/2 cup, 5 crackers, or 10 chips) and servings per container (such as 2, 4, 6). The label then shows the amount of calories per serving and the amount of calories from fat. These numbers are important, especially if you aim to eat a diet lower in calories and fat. For example, having 5 whole grain crackers at 80 calories per serving is not awful for a snack. But who eats just 5 crackers? If you had 15 crackers, you’d consume 240 calories-which is probably too many, especially if you’re watching your weight.

You’ll notice different units of measurement on food labels. Many of the nutrients are measured in grams or “g,” while others are measured in milligrams or “mg”. Some information is given in percentages (%).

Read About Fats and Other Nutrients

Along with calories per serving and calories from fat, the Nutrition Facts gives you the amount of total fat. It then breaks the total fat number down into saturated fat and trans fat–the unhealthy fats not recommended on the Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet because they increase the risk of certain diseases. The total fat number is also broken down into polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat, which are more beneficial to your health. Let’s look at what these fatty terms mean:

  1. Bad Fat: Cholesterol is found mainly in meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products. The food cholesterol increases cholesterol in your blood and adds to the risk of heart disease.
  2. Bad Fat: Saturated fat comes from foods that are solid at room temperature, including animal sources, dairy products, and some oils. Saturated fat is found in red meat, butter, cheeses, luncheon meats, cocoa butter, coconut oil, palm oil, and cream. An excess of saturated fats raises the cholesterol level in the blood.
  3. Bad Fat: Trans fats are formed during the process of hydrogenation. These fats are in foods such as vegetable shortening, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, salad dressings and other processed foods. Eating too many trans fats raises the cholesterol level in the blood.
  4. Good Fat: Brain Boosting Polyunsaturated fat includes both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and comes from foods that are liquid or soft at room temperature, including plant foods, nuts, seeds, some plant oils (sunflower, corn, soybean) and some seafood (herring, salmon, mackerel, halibut-all high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids), and soybeans. Polyunsaturated fat is necessary to protect the body against illness.
  5. Good Fat: Monounsaturated fat comes from plant foods that are liquid at room temperature, including olives and olive oil, along with canola oil, peanuts, and avocados. New research suggests that these fats help to reduce your risk of heart disease (what is good for your heart … is good for your brain).

After listing the fats, the carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugars, and protein are listed next on the food label. These items are followed by specific nutrients in the food product such as vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Lastly, the food label lists the ingredients in the product.

What Do Daily Values Mean?

To the right side of the Nutrition Facts are the Daily Value percentages. The Percent (%) Daily Value indicates how much of a specific nutrient one serving of food contains compared to recommendations for the entire day. The percentages next to each nutrient – fat, sodium, fiber, protein – guide you in determining if a food is “high” or “low” in specific nutrients, depending on the Daily Value recommendations. Five percent or less is considered to be “low”; 20 percent or higher is “high.” For example, the Dietary Fiber is 0 percent or “low” in Ritz Crackers. In All-Bran Multi-Grain Crackers, the Dietary Fiber is 5 grams or 20 percent of your Daily Value, which is high.-a much better choice,.

Avoiding Marketing Hype

As you become used to reading the food product’s Nutrition Facts, you’ll realize that some manufacturers try to “fool” consumers. Some packages say “all natural,” but if they are excessively high in sugar or saturated fat-“all natural” means nothing! If a food label says “low-fat,” read the Nutrition Facts to see if it’s a healthy choice. Many times a low-fat food is still high in sugar or calories.

Boosting Key Nutrients

It’s important to choose food that is nutrient dense, which means food that delivers a complete nutritional “punch”-filled with substantial levels of vitamins and minerals, few calories, limited saturated and trans fats, and low in cholesterol, sodium, and sugar.

Limit: Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium. Eating too much of these may increase your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and some types of cancer.

Increase: Good Fats, Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron. Eating plenty of these key nutrients can boost your immune function and overall health. Plenty of fiber is important to promote healthy bowel function, while calcium builds strong bones and prevents fractures. Vitamin A and C are important for staying well, preventing infection, and reducing the risk of diseases.

What I Tell My Patients About Ingredients Listed in Nutritional Facts

Here’s what I tell my patients: If you read the Nutrition Facts and you don’t understand the ingredients…toss it. If you’re at the grocery store and you read the Nutritional Facts and don’t understand some ingredients or terms, do not buy it. The best way to “know” you’re getting safe and healthful foods is to purchase foods that have few ingredients and include whole foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, fresh meats and fish, eggs, soy low-fat milk and yogurt). If the list of ingredients is longer than three to five foods, put it back on the shelf. I recommend shopping the perimeter of the grocery store because that’s where the whole foods are available for purchase.

Get rid of the following foods during your Kitchen Overhaul:

  • Highly processed foods
    You’ll notice on the Nutritional Facts label, that these foods have many ingredients-some that you’ve never heard of before. That’s not a good sign when it comes to your health! Many ingredients? Toss the food. Several ingredients? Check them out, and if they are whole foods (whole grains, soy products, walnuts, milk, eggs), the product may be healthy.
  • Foods high in corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and sugar
    Be sure to check the Nutritional Facts on your bread package and cracker box, too. If it has added high fructose corn syrup (a liquid sweetener made from dextrose or glucose from corn starch) or any of the following different names for “sugar,” you might want to be aware and reduce your intake. Whereas high fructose corn syrup, crystalline fructose (made from cornstarch if used as an ingredient in foods) and all sugars-are generally safe, according to the FDA, added sugars to foods and juices usually decrease levels of more essential nutrients found in whole foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Here are some additional names for “sugar” to watch out for in all food labels:

    • Brown sugar
    • Concentrated fruit juice
    • Corn syrup
    • Demerara sugar
    • Dextrose
    • Free flowing brown sugars
    • Fructose
    • Galactose
    • Glucose
    • High fructose corn syrup
    • Honey
    • Invert Sugar
    • Lactose
    • Malt
    • Maltodextrin
    • Maltose
    • Maple syrup
    • Molasses
    • Panocha
    • Powdered or confectioner’s sugar
    • Raw sugar
    • Rice Syrup
    • Sucrose
    • Sugar (granulated)
    • Syrup
    • Treacle
    • Turbinado sugar
  • Foods high in white flour
    Whether it says “enriched” or not, white flour is a fast-burning refined carbohydrate that causes insulin levels to spike. When they remove the whole grain to manufacture white flour, they strip out all B vitamins. Select foods that contain grains and seeds like wheat, brown rice, barley, oats, millet, semolina and whole meal flour.
  • Foods high in saturated fats, trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils
    These fats increase lipids and triglycerides in the body, which increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. If the ingredient label has any of these types of fats listed, toss it now.
  • Foods high in sodium, salt, and MSG
    Read your Nutritional Label to get the amount of sodium in a product. I recommend that patients stay below 130 milligrams of sodium (or less) per serving if they want to watch sodium in the diet. If there’s MSG in a product and it says sodium on the label, they are using this to account for the sodium in the MSG.
  • Foods filled with sugar substitutes
    If you have diabetes and your doctor has recommended sugar substitutes, then follow your doctor’s advice. If you don’t have diabetes, you may want to remove the following sweeteners from your kitchen pantry. While the FDA has approved all of these, there are studies that question the safety although the jury is still out.

Tip #2: Go Shopping

Fill your kitchen with the Golden Dozen and other brain-boosting foods. Go to the supermarket and purchase an array of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, lean meats, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy, soy products, and nuts and seeds.

Many patients ask how they can know if a bread or cracker is a “whole grain.” I tell them to look for the word “whole” on the Nutritional Facts label. If the ingredient is 100 percent whole grain, oat bran, barley, or rye, these are acceptable. If “whole grain” is not listed, it means the germ is refined and not a whole grain product. When food manufacturers remove the whole grain and refine the bread (so it sticks to the roof of your mouth!), they strip out all the B vitamins. B vitamins are crucial for heart and brain health. Accept only whole grain products.

Tip #3: Follow the Harmonic Method of Eating (the 1/3 Proportion Rule)

As you select foods, use the 1/3RD, 1/3RD, 1/3RD distribution of calories from good fat, carbohydrates and protein throughout the day. This proportion is easy to remember and crucial to maintain one’s hormonal balance of insulin and glucagons.

1/3RD Complex Carbohydrates

One-third of your daily calorie consumption should consist of complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are low in starch and high in fiber).

1/3RD Lean Protein

One-third of your daily calorie consumption should consist of very lean protein, including fish, lean meats, poultry, eggs, soy products, nuts and seeds, and low-fat dairy.

1/3 Good Fats

One-third of your daily calorie consumption should consist of “good” fats. Olive oil, grape seed oil, peanut oil, flaxseed oil, olives, avocadoes, and nuts are all filled with good fats.

Fiber and the Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet

Vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are all high in fiber. On the Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet, you should aim for 30 to 35 grams of fiber daily, which will be easy with the choices I’ve given you. Fiber helps to regulate blood glucose levels and keep you full. Insoluble fiber found in wheat and whole grains, apple peel, celery, carrots, greens, broccoli, green beans, and squash attracts water and swells up, adding bulk to the stool. This type of fiber is necessary to keep your bowels regular and also helps with weight control. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and slows the absorption of sugars, fat, and cholesterol in the intestines. Soluble fiber can help to lower abnormal lipids, especially when your diet is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Foods high in soluble fiber include oat bran, oatmeal, oranges, apples, carrots, dried beans and legumes, peas, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, strawberries and apple pulp help steady your blood sugar, reducing the spikes in insulin.

Lose Weight and Reduce the Chance of Alzheimer’s

A key risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is obesity. We know that people who are overweight or obese in their 40s have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Research suggests that visceral fat present in large amounts in the midsection of the body (we call belly fat) might be a major source of inflammatory molecules. The resulting inflammation is suspected to play an important role in diseases such as insulin resistance, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and possibly Alzheimer’s.

The daily menus provided in this book are based on the consumption of 2000 calories per day. However, some may need additional calories and some may need less depending on your personal caloric needs. The menus are based on a 1/3RD, 1/3RD, 1/3RD distribution of calories from good fat, carbohydrates and protein consumption throughout the day. It is important to maintain this distribution on a daily basis in order to regulate blood sugar levels. Therefore, if your calorie needs are less than 2,000 calories per day it is advised that you consume smaller portion sizes of each of the foods listed in the daily menu. For example, if lunch provides chicken, rice and beans, do not cut out just the beans. Try to cut back on the portion of chicken, rice and beans evenly. The same concept applies if you need to consume more than 2,000 calories per day in order to maintain your weight. It may be necessary that you consult a registered dietitian in order to help you determine your personal calorie needs for weight maintenance or weight loss. In order for you to find a dietitian in your area, you can use the American Dietetic Association website (www.eatright.org).

More Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet tips include

  • Exercise as a family
  • Eliminate sugary beverages in the household
  • Promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables by having them cleaned and readily available in the refrigerator or on the kitchen table
  • If you must have a sweet snack…eat only one “treat” each day (make sure it is no more than 150 calories to limit sugar intake)
  • Cook with non-stick cookware and olive oil cooking sprays to cut back on oils and fats in the diet
  • Be a role model…eat healthy and exercise in front of your children or grandchildren

The Anti-Alzheimer’s “diet” is an eating plan for life and the menus provided will help guide you through your journey. It may not always be realistic that you will follow a 28 day meal plan repeatedly; however, when you feel as if you need to get back on track the menus will be here to get you back on the right path. Use the menus for meal ideas and as a guide for appropriate serving sizes. In order to maintain a healthy diet, plan your meals for the week; make a grocery list and purchase what you can at the beginning of the week. Buy fresh foods, such as fish, fruits and vegetables as you need them throughout the week. Make extra portions for dinner and bring leftovers for lunch or use them for dinner another night of the week…this will cut back on time spent in the kitchen!

Along with weight loss, you can lower your blood pressure, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, levels of c-reactive protein, and risk for metabolic syndrome-all health conditions that increase the chance of Alzheimer’s.

Age and Weight Gain

There are a number of reasons why we get fatter with aging.

  1. Our thyroid responsible for our metabolic rate decreases.
  2. In the hypothalamus of the brain, Leptin receptors are fewer as we age. Leptin is important for satiety or fullness which makes you more likely to feel hungry.
  3. A decrease in body lean mass is very important as muscle burns more calories than fat by a factor of 4 to 1.
  4. As cortisol increases with age, a neuropeptide (y ones) increase and this increase weight gain.

The Golden Dozen

With the help of my highly qualified registered dietitian, Ms. Lauren Brand, M.S., R.D., we selected the following foods to be part of the Golden Dozen. Learn why these foods are important and then use them in your daily meal and snack choices.

  1. Berries
    Berries, including blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, acai, cranberries, bilberries, dark red cherries, and blackberries, are filled with anthocyanins, special chemical components that give intense color to fruits and vegetables. It is thought that anthocyanins sweep out harmful free-radical molecules that trigger inflammation. In an animal study from Tufts, rodents given a blueberry-supplemented diet not only experienced improvements in neuronal and cognitive behavioral activity, but their motor behavior also benefited. (Other studies show that antioxidant-filled berries help fight against aging problems, such as short-term-memory loss. Dark blue and purple berries also show a significant reversal in motor dysfunction that correlates with aging and dopamine deficiency.)
    Quick uses: Toss berries in dinner salads, sprinkle on yogurt as a topping, or eat for snacks.
  2. Apples
    Apples are loaded with quercetin, a bioflavonoid that modifies the inflammatory response by inhibiting the release of prostaglandins, an inflammatory compound. The latest scientific studies confirm that inflammation is a primary “brain killer” and destroys from within. Be sure to eat your apple with skin, as the vitamin content is reportedly higher in the skin than the flesh.
    Quick uses: Bake, slice in garden salads, or eat anytime for snacks.
  3. Fish
    Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation. Fish reduce triglycerides and lower blood pressure, too. (If you are a woman of childbearing age, talk to your doctor about including fish in your diet.)
    Quick uses: Broil salmon, serve tuna for lunch, snack on sardines and crackers.
  4. Cruciferous vegetables
    Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables filled with phytochemicals (plant protectors) that are vital in keeping your brain healthy. Cruciferous vegetables are a major dietary source of isothiocyanates, special compounds in food that may protect against coronary artery disease and Alzheimer’s. In a 25-year study of 13,000 women, researchers at Harvard Medical School found that those women who ate high amounts of vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, had less decline in memory as they aged.
    Quick uses: Steam, saute, mix in casseroles, or shred (raw) for cole slaw.
  5. Nuts
    Nuts -including walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, and cashews — are powerhouses of monounsaturated fat, a good fat that helps to reduce LDL bad cholesterol and makes nuts both heart and brain healthy. Nuts are high in vitamin E, a powerful, fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect cell membranes from damage by free radicals and prevents the oxidation of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Nuts are not as high in calories as many think because 15% of the calories are not absorbed by the gastric tract due to their covering. The slow release of protein and fat by nuts increase the feeling of fullness and the excretion of Glucagon and not insulin.
    Quick uses: Add to rice dishes, toss in cold salads, or eat a few nuts at snack time.
  6. Dairy (low-fat)
    Studies show that a diet high in low-fat dairy products significantly lowers blood pressure-and hypertension and cardiovascular disease are key risk factors for Alzheimer’s. In addition, yogurt, which is high in protein, contains the amino acid tyrosine that’s necessary to manufacture the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenalin. Scientific studies show that chronic stress depletes the body of tyrosine. But supplementing with certain foods-like yogurt–can increase memory and boost alertness.
    Quick uses: Drink fat free or low-fat milk with meals, pour on cereal, use in cooking; eat yogurt or low-fat cheese for snacks. Try the Anti-Alzheimer’s Brain Boosting Berry Smoothie.
  7. Greens
    Greens such as kale, turnip, mustard, collard, spinach, and other leafy greens are loaded with antioxidants that nourish and defend body cells, including neurons. These powerful antioxidants prevent plaque buildup in the arteries, allowing for a strong blood flow to the brain.
    Quick uses: Steamed, sauteed, or chopped in salads.
  8. Dried beans or legumes
    Dried beans or legumes -including lima beans, pink beans, navy beans, cranberry beans, red beans, black beans, white beans, pinto beans, Great Northern beans, chickpeas, and kidney beans — are high in folate, and folate is necessary for normal levels of homocysteine (high levels of serum homocysteine are associated with cognitive decline). An analysis of data from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging has revealed that those with higher intake of folate and vitamins B6 and E, had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
    Quick uses: Serve hot at mealtime, mix in casseroles, or toss in cold salads.
  9. Soy
    Soy products are excellent sources of plant protein that are high in polyunsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals and low in saturated fat. Two components of the soybean, diadzein and genistein, have beneficial effects in cancer prevention and the prevention of heart disease. Eating soy foods helps lower LDL “bad” cholesterol that’s associated with an increased risk of heart disease-and brain disease (including Alzheimer’s).
    Quick uses: Use soy milk on cereal or in baking; use soy-substitute crumbles instead of meat in recipes; use dried beans in recipes like chili and baked beans.
  10. Sweet Potatoes
    Loaded with significant values of beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, phosphorous, calcium, and fiber, sweet potatoes are associated with reducing the risk of cancer, suppressing tumor development, and even improving night vision. Because of the fiber content, sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic load than white potatoes.
    Quick uses: Use in place of white potatoes; serve baked sweet potato fries.
  11. Tomatoes
    Preliminary research confirms that the potent antioxidant lycopene, which is prominent in tomatoes, may be more powerful than beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and vitamin E. This antioxidant is associated with a better heart, memory and even protection against certain types of cancer. Studies show that heating tomatoes makes lycopene more easily absorbed and utilized by the body.
    Quick uses: Stew them, add to soups and sauces, eat sliced on sandwiches or in salads.
  12. Whole Grains
    I urge you to select whole grain products whenever possible. Whole grains are low on the glycemic index as it takes longer for them to digest, which slows down the conversion of starch to sugar. Whole grain products contain the word “whole” not “enriched” and include all three parts of a grain kernel: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Sprouted-wheat bread, some whole-grain breakfast cereals, brown rice, barley, and oatmeal are all whole-grain choices. Most whole grains contain from 1-4 grams of fiber per serving. I tell my patients that if their jaws are working out harder, chances are the grain is a true whole grain.
    Quick uses: Use whole grain bread for sandwiches, have oatmeal for breakfast, add barley to casseroles.
  13. Add Eggs to Your Diet
    Eggs are rich in choline, which your body uses to produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Low levels of acetylcholine are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Use Brain-Boosting Herbs and Spices

Garlic, an antioxidant, is anti-atherosclerotic and can potentially help against stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. Garlic has been found to lower blood pressure, protect blood vessels and prevent plaque build-up in arteries, an important factor in preventing heart disease and stroke. Some new findings indicate that garlic is also neuroprotective, supporting both memory and new learning.

Curcumin, an antioxidant and component of the spice turmeric, has been shown to reduce oxidative damage and decrease beta-amyloid peptides in the brain by 43 to 50 percent. Studies show that elderly villagers in India who eat turmeric with every meal have the lowest rate of Alzheimer’s disease in the world.

Anti-Alzheimer’s Supplements You Need

While I’d prefer that you get necessary nutrients from whole foods in your diet, you can consider the following supplements:

  1. 1 multivitamin that does not contain iron or copper (if you are a woman of childbearing age and take iron supplements, ask your doctor about the best source).
  2. 800 micrograms of folic acid daily (this amount may be in your daily multivitamin).
  3. 1000 mg (twice daily) of fish oil or flaxseed supplements Men with prostate problems or with prescriptions are advised not to take flaxseed.
  4. Supplement with antioxidants:
    • Vitamin C: 2,000 – 4,000 mg
    • Vitamin E: 400 – 800 IU
    • Beta Carotene: 15,000 – 40,000 IU
    • Selenium: 100 – 300 mcg
    • Grape Seed Extract: 50 – 200 mg
    • Coenzyme Q10: 300- 1200 mg
    • L-Lipoic Acid: 50 – 250 mg
    • Green Tea Extract: 30 – 150 mg
  5. 1 baby aspirin daily (for anti-inflammatory effects)
  6. 1 glass daily of red wine. Findings from the Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging show that people with mild cognitive impairment that drink up to one glass of alcohol, mostly wine, developed Alzheimer’s at an 85 percent slower pace than people who never drank alcohol.

If you cannot afford to purchase all of these supplements, the minimum I recommend to patients include fish oil, folic acid, a multivitamin, and Coenzyme Q10, if you are taking a statin medication. (Coenzyme Q10 is very expensive, usually $25 or more for 60 pills of 150 mg each.) In addition, if you are taking statins it’s important that you know there are some common side effects called myalgia or muscle aching. When you take statins and exercise, you may experience severe pain in your forearms, buttocks, or thighs probably related to the statins. This side effect can lead to a permanent autoimmune problem. To prevent serious problems, ask your doctor to do a laboratory test called a CPK. If this is elevated one, you’ll have to weigh the risks versus the benefits of the statin medication. Zetia may be a good alternative to your current treatment, so talk to your doctor about this problem and changing treatment.

Caution on Supplements and Herbal Remedies

Many of the supplements interacts with other medications and have adverse affects by either enhancing or inhibiting the effects of medications given for heart, liver or other illnesses you may have.

Copper is associated with an increased likelihood of A.D. by the Academy of Neurology. Vitamins should have less than 2.5 milligrams of copper per day.

Condroitin sulfate taken for joints especially knee degeneration decrease to build up cartilage is noted to increase the risk of bleeding when taken with ANSAID (Motrin, Celebrex, and Daypro).

Flaxseed oil decreases the absorption of oral medications especially blood thinner and so should be taken separately. It is also advisable not to be taken by men because of the potential for prostrate cancer.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) increase insulin resistance and should be taken cautiously if one is insulin resistant

Ginger interfaces with warfarin (coumadin) and Ginkgo Biloba enhances bleeding tendencies.

Melatonin often used for sleep problems increase clotting and interferes with Warforin (Coumadin) anticlotting activity.

St. John’s Wart can interfere with the antidepressants and with amioderone, a cardiac anticoagulant effect and increase tendency to bleed.

Caution – Weight Loss Supplements

Care and caution must be paged to weight loss herbs and supplements ephedra is well known to cause a serious risk of heart attacks and irregular heartbeat. Other weight loss schemes as Calcium supplements, Bitter Orange and Chitosan do not work except for the companies that sell it.

High caloric enemas do not make you lose weight but they do clean out your wallet. Olestra, a fast substitute to lower calories and fat in such things as potato chips, also reduces absorption of fat soluble vitamins as caratenoids. Grape seed oil scent noted to decrease one apetite but remember grape fruit decrease the absorption of statins (liptor creator) that lower LDL Cholesterol. Finally, one added caution ANSAIDS as Motrin, Aleve, Celebrex inhibit the anitplatlate effect of Aspirin needed to prevent heart attacks.. So if one needs aspirin for cardiovascular help, do not take it within 14 hours of the ANSAIDS.

Supplements a Hard Pill to Swallow

The major reason supplements are not taken is they are “hard to swallow”- literally. I surveyed 100 patients and more than 70% had some anxiety or problem with swallowing their supplement pills. The most common problems were that the pills were too large (and sometimes contained sharp edges) and the patient did not know the best way to swallow the pill.

I found the best tolerated pills were small, roughly a centimeter, a little more than a third of an inch, and football shaped. Giant pills such as 1,000 milligram fish oil, flax seed oil or co-enzyQ10 were often a problem.

The next problem I found is many patients thought that throwing their head back and swallowing would improve their ability to down these mega pills, as birds do. However, what may be good for birds is not for humans. Throwing back one’s head increases the likelihood of choking. Instead keep your head in a neutral position, then placing the pill in the middle of the tongue. While swallowing the liquid, tucking your chin down about 50% of the way to the chest, is optimum. Try sipping water out of the palm of your hand as an example of the correct head position. Using a straw with the head tilted forward is best as drinking from a cup often causes one to lift the chin and places our swallowing mechanism in a suboptimal position.

Other tips for swallowing pills include using a denser fluid such as milk or a smoothie. Some of my patients put their pills in yogurt; other patients coat them with a small amount of olive oil.

Fish oil pills are often a particular problem. These larger capsules usually cause a very distasteful regurgitation after consumption. This distasteful regurgitation can be avoided by keeping the fish oil bottle in the freezer, eating the capsules with food, or buying capsules that are enteric coded, which means they dissolve in the small intestine. Buying fish oil capsules that are 500 milligrams reduces the size of the capsule. Some brands, such as proDHA are flavored and of the proper size.

Attitude is important. Enjoy the supplements, don’t regard them as medicine. I advise taking some of them with 8 to 10 ounces of fluids. It helps stem one’s appetite.