Eating the right foods can slash your risk of developing debilitating Alzheimer’s disease by half, say experts, who tout brain-healthy food plans as powerful weapons in your arsenal to battle dementia.
Famed chef and cookbook author Paula Wolfert, 78, can tell you from her own experience how diet can combat dementia.
In 2013, when she had to ask her husband crime novelist William Bayer how to make an omelet, she knew that her “senior moments” were more than just age-related memory loss. She suspected that something was wrong when words on a page seemed to make no sense and complex questions seemed to baffle her.
The eight languages she used to understand have been reduced to just one — English. And her vocabulary dwindled to 40 percent of what it was during her prolific and flamboyant career introducing exotic Mediterranean cuisine like tagines and cassoulet to American kitchens.
But Wolfert forged ahead creating a diet plan to save her brain. She eats a carbohydrate-free diet based on salmon, berries, and greens along with extracts of turmeric, cinnamon and eggplant.
“My feeling is, accept that it is what it is, but stall it by trying to do as much as possible,” she told the Washington Post about her special diet that includes butter in her morning java and several squares of dark chocolate after lunch.
She says that she fashioned her special mind-saving diet plan after watching cardiologist Alejandro Junger discuss his anti-inflammatory diet, “Clean Gut,” on the Dr. Oz show.
Scientists at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago have touted the so-called MIND diet, noting studies have shown it can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by a whopping 53 percent.
The MIND diet stands for “Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay” and was developed by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush.
She combined the best of both worlds, two proven heart-healthy diets, to create a special brain-boosting plan. She married the popular Mediterranean plan with the DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, focusing on the foods that best improved brain function and reduced mental decline.
Morris’s team followed the food intake of 923 Chicago-area seniors. Over four and half years, 144 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease, consistent with the statistic that one in 10 of us become sufferers.
But the longer people followed the MIND diet, the less risk they had for developing the disease. In fact, participants who strictly adhered to the MIND diet lowered their risk by a whopping 53 percent.
Even those who adhered to it moderately decreased the chances of getting Alzheimer’s by an impressive 35 percent.
The MIND diet includes 10 healthy food groups:
Green leafy vegetables and other veggies
The eating plan requires limiting red meat, butter, cheese, fried foods, and sweets. Followers consume at least three servings of whole grains daily, plus salad and another vegetables. A glass of vino is also allowed.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association more than 5.5 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease. Of these, an estimated 5.3 million are age 65 and over according to 2012 statistics.
It’s the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, killing more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. The Association projects that by the year 2050, this number could rise to a whopping 16 million, so taking stock of your diet plan now, at any age, can be a brain saver.
“Even moderate adherence to the MIND diet is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia,” notes Dr. Gary Small, author of “Two Weeks to a Younger Brain” and the Mind Health Report newsletter. “People who follow this diet have significantly slower cognitive decline in several areas of mental function.”