One of the many questions surrounding Alzheimer’s disease is if there are any ways residents of Mount Vernon or elsewhere can stop its progression toward hospice care and ultimately death, especially through certain activities, medication, or lifestyle.
So far the very frustrating answer is “unknown” since, while there have been all sorts of research taking place into different possible causes and ways to halt or slow things down, nothing firm has emerged yet. But some current studies do give people hope, including one that indicates that certain foods like more fruit may help.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice have been watching research into Alzheimer’s disease and similar dementias closely, since many of our clients are battling the disease, or some of our past clients have died from it. We share the frustrations of family members and loved ones who watch the painful progression of someone’s mental and physical abilities and know that there’s not much relief at this time.
So we’re especially encouraged by research into the possible role that diet may be able to play. While it’s much too early to declare anything definitive toward an actual cure, this seems like an interesting approach.
One long-term study performed by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows indications that a regular diet of berries and other foods can make a big difference in protecting your brain from the attacks against it caused by dementias.
Since 1970, the USDA has been surveying 2,800 Americans who are 50 and older. About half are women.
Different participants have different diets but current data from this study shows that the ones who are showing the highest likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease are the ones who consume the lowest amounts of fruit such as berries and apples. They also refrain from natural beverages like fruit juices or tea
The converse appears to have some validity too: those who make fruit part of their standard diet and have regular drinks of tea and/or wine also are less likely to have Alzheimer’s symptoms.
The people with twice as high of a risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease symptoms were those that ate zero berries, didn’t drink any tea, or ate as few as 1.5 apples or pears a month. Infrequent consumers of blueberries, strawberries, and wine had a four-fold increase in their overall risk.
The other end of the spectrum indicated having the lowest risks of Alzheimer’s symptoms reported they ate 7.5 cups of berries through the course of an average month, plus drank about 19 cups of tea, either black or green. Common berries they chose included strawberries and blueberries.
Study organizers say that even moderate changes in diet can make a significant difference in quickly reducing risks, such as going from not having any berries at all to one or two cups a week.
The study is ongoing, but indications suspect something called flavonoids can boost brain health and resist some of the widespread damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Flavonoids are naturally occurring substances found n plant-based foods. Flavonoids are also known to reduce inflammation throughout the body. These can be found in berries, chocolate, plus leafy greens like kale and spinach.
Another study of a possible relationship to diet and Alzheimer’s disease surveyed 921 participants and found that those who ate or drank more products with flavonoids had a 48 percent drop in their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease
More data needed
Experts involved in this study, however, are quick to say that the data isn’t final and that there’s no definite connection between fruit and reduced risk yet. For instance, one could argue that people who eat fruit and drink wine and tea regularly are already in good health and practice good habits, so they might naturally have fewer Alzheimer’s symptoms as opposed to someone who eats poorly and has a poor lifestyle and other health risks. Study organizers have tried to limit some variables, such as obesity and smoking. Plus, there are areas where some of the data is less thorough.
For instance, someone who was precise in writing down exactly what he or she eats or drinks daily early in the study may grow less accurate as they age and begin to show more and more signs of Alzheimer’s disease since it can affect memory and cognition.
Other researchers are also looking into the possible role of flavonoids in the brain and other parts of the body. Reduced inflammation has been linked to better heart health, better digestion, and lower cancer risks.
How to help
There are all sorts of opportunities throughout the year to increase awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and programs and get involved at the local, state or national levels. One is Fruits and Veggies-More Matters Month which takes place each September. It promotes the value of healthy eating in terms of daily diet plus the benefits of overall health.