Doctors: Diet could help prevent Alzheimer's
Posted on May 20, 2011 at 7:21 AM
Updated Friday, May 20 at 8:45 AM
PORTLAND -- What you eat could help prevent or even delay the onset of Alzheimer's Disease.
Doctors are taking a different approach to the treatment of the disease, by hoping to prevent it in ways similar to the prevention of heart disease.
"We know from observational studies that people who eat a Mediterranean diet are far less likely to get Alzheimer's-type diseases," said Doctor Miles Hassell, a doctor of internal medicine at Providence St. Vincent Hospital.
A nutritional lifestyle can keep the body and the brain healthy as long as possible, he said.
That means avoid packaged foods, drinks, sugars and artificial sweeteners, which Dr. Hassell said will make you want to keep eating sweets.
"Just learn to enjoy less sweet foods," he said. "Some of the studies show that if you reduce the sugar intake over a short term, hours and days even, you can see improvement in cognitive function. It's modest, but it appears to be real."
He recommended eating approximately ten servings of vegetables a day, plus nuts, and whole grains, and away from corn syrup.
"I would really just get rid of most of the refined carbohydrates. So the sugars, the white flour products, the pastries, the scones, the pastas, and replace them with true whole grain products," said Dr. Hassell.
He added that it's also good advice to get outside, be active, walk around. Don't just sit still.
"Make that a priority. It's as important as brushing your teeth and going to your job," she said.
In addition, technology can now help doctors measure disease progression.
Using newly discovered biomarkers, scientists can look at plaques in the brain, which may be associated with Alzheimer's. Subtle shrinking of the brain's memory center can happen 10 to 20 years before symptoms develop.
"Historically, anything that prevents a disease usually slows down a progression of the disease as well. So our bet is that we will find that this will slow down the progression," Hassell added.
Experts recommend patients with Alzheimer's go on diets that slowly decrease carbohydrate intake over a nine-week period.
Hassell also said that people who eat less food overall seem to have better cognitive functions.