med dietHeather Dobbert, MSW, LCSW, CDP, CADDCT, Director of Dementia Care Services, Hebrew HealthCare

I love the popular media; it seems they plot to confuse us in order to sell more papers/magazines/online subscriptions. Eat this, don’t eat that. This spice will cure. That spice will destroy. These berries will protect. Those will poison. News at 11… But here’s the shocking truth: diet is important to your gray matter, but it’s not an all-or-nothing-deal.

Truth – some forgetfulness is expected with aging. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging.

Truth – there are several nutrition studies which show “correlation” effects, but are later proven wrong, or are too small to be generalized to a larger population.

Truth – the latest research supports common sense – it’s not a single food, spice, oil or supplement, but an overall lifestyle which seems to impact the risk of dementia.

A “prudent” diet was studied and compared to a “western” diet by researchers in Sweden. Their work was published in February 2016 in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

  • The study was huge (more than 2,000 people),
  • well designed (considered demographic info, health issues, exercise, and a number of other factors), and
  • was a study done over a long period (2004-2010).
  • The “western” diet included high saturated/trans fats, frequent intake of processed/red meat, beers, spirits and sugars.
  • The “prudent” diet was characterized by more frequent consumption of fruit, veggies, low-fat dairy, fish, legumes, poultry, whole grain rice/pasta, water and healthy oils.

Truth – the Western dietary pattern was found in participants with more decline in cognition over time. People who followed the “prudent” diet had much less cognitive decline.

According to the research, “it is common that people consume a combination of healthy and less health foods….68% of the participants had mixed adherence to both dietary patterns.”

THE SHOCKING TRUTH – When the prudent diet was followed “most often”, the cognitive decline was cut in half. That means that perfection in following a so-called healthy diet is not necessary. More and more research points to diet as having a big impact on brain health, and likely more of an impact than exercise, but for those of us who “fall off the wagon” and feel like we’ve doomed ourselves, we can rest assured that “most of the time” is better than none of the time.

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