Under the Hood

Effective Strategies To Lower Your Dementia Risk According To Nutritional Therapist

By 2050, dementia is set to affect over 152 million people, according to Alzheimer's Disease International's World Alzheimer's Report of 2019.

Research from the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found that approximately 20 percent of those without dementia show significant signs of beta-amyloid accumulation in the brain. Beta-amyloid proteins clump together in the brain to form plaques that block chemical messages and slow down cognition, thus causing Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia and also the 6th leading cause of death in America, as per the Alzheimer's Association.

Dementia can affect you, as well as everyone else you hold dear. The good news is that you can act now to lower your dementia risk by following these effective lifestyle strategies from nutritional therapist Natalie Lamb:

Low Sugar Intake 

Natalie said that high blood sugar (glucose) levels enhance beta-amyloid production in your brain, adding that as blood sugar levels increase, the necessary insulin levels get amped up to help your cells utilize the blood sugar for energy. 

"Interestingly, an enzyme in the brain called insulin-degrading enzyme, breaks down both insulin and beta-amyloid in the brain," she added. 

With these in mind, Natalie then described how increased insulin levels cause the "insulin-degrading enzyme" to prioritize clearing insulin, and not beta-amyloid. 

She suggested eating protein with each meal to help satisfy your hunger and to curb any sweet cravings, and also encouraged swapping food high in sugar or refined white carbohydrates (e.g. bread) for whole grains.

Intermittent Fasting 

During fasting, "insulin-degrading enzymes will be able to focus on breaking down amyloid proteins," Natalie said. 

She enumerated "additional potential benefits" of intermittent fasting that are being suggested in early research. These include: "enhancing brain function, improving insulin sensitivity, and reducing oxidative stress and damage." 

"It's also suggested that intermittent fasting reduces apoptosis (cell death) and increasing neurogenesis (newly generated brain cells), therefore increasing the brain's capacity for self-repair and optimal function," said Natalie. 

She recommended trying the "5:2" diet, where two days of fasting should follow five days of normal eating.

Ketogenic Diet

Ketones are "the brain's main physiological alternative fuel to glucose," Natalie said. "Published clinical trials have demonstrated that increasing ketone availability to the brain via moderate nutritional ketosis had a modest beneficial effect on mild cognitive decline."

You can start by indulging in a "high-fat ketogenic diet" or by "consuming supplements of medium-chain triglycerides."

Diet Rich In Plant-Based Nutrients

Plant-based nutrients called polyphenols, Natalie said, "are well known for exhibiting strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties." Both of these aid in brain health since your brain is especially vulnerable to oxidative stress, high levels of which can lead to dementia. Antioxidants, in particular, can protect your brain cells from oxidative stress.

Nuts, citrus fruits (e.g. orange, lemon), berries, leafy vegetables, cereals and olive oil are great sources of polyphenols. 

Other Strategies 

Natalie suggested other strategies that will lower your dementia risk, including:

  • A Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, nuts, legumes, vegetables and oily fish 
  • Regular exercise 
  • Plenty of sleep 
  • Maintaining a healthy weight 
  • Limit aluminum exposure 
  • A balanced gut bacteria

Dementia The idea that dementia is normal is a myth. Neil Moralee (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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