Alzheimer’s – One of the great epidemics of this century.

Elderly handIn Australia, there are over 321,000 people living with dementia. That number is expected to rise to over 400,000 within 10 years. It is the single greatest cause of disability of Australians aged 65 and over, and is becoming a bigger problem every day. [1] Chronic inflammation seems to be the main instigator of the cascade effect that results in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Disregulation of the inflammatory pathways in the body are thought to affect the central nervous system and thus create the conditions that result in neurodegenerative disorders.[2]

Inflammation is characteristic of most chronic disease, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity; conditions which are all likely to increase the chance of developing dementia. Generally, these conditions are influenced greatly by dietary intake. High fat, high sugar (particularly high fructose) diets, combined with few fresh foods and low in essential fatty acids are a recipe for metabolic syndrome and eventual dementia. In a study undertaken by UCLA, researchers found that rats fed a fructose-rich and omega-3 fat deficient diet (similar to what is consumed by many Australians) developed both insulin resistance and impaired brain function in just six weeks. [3]

Recent research has shown that B vitamins may be very useful in helping treat demenetia. Homocysteine is an amino acid and inflammatory marker, and high levels of it are thought to be involved with increased risk of Alzheimer’s and the ‘brain shrinkage’ that is commonly seen in dementia. B vitamins, especially folate and B12, are known to metabolise homocysteine into safe compounds. In a recent study, it was found that those taking a relatively high dose of vitamin B after 2 years had significantly less brain shrinkage than those who were taking the placebo. [4]

Memory loss is not a normal part of aging. Preventing it is best accomplished by leading a healthy lifestyle, including:

  •  Avoid environmental toxins such as mercury, lead and aluminium.
  •  Stop smoking and reduce alcohol intake.
  • Avoid statin drugs – these have been shown to have a detrimental effect on memory and may increase your risk of dementia.
  • Incorporate high quality essential fatty acids into your diet or take a supplement. This will help to prevent cell damage in the brain.
  • Take a high quality B multivitamin.
  • Avoid fructose in your diet where possible.
  • Optimise your vitamin D levels with safe sun exposure. Vitamin D has been shown to have some protective effects on the neurons throughout the brain and nervous system.
  • Challenge your mind. Stimulation of the brain, especially whilst learning, helps to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s by making it less susceptible to brain lesions.
  • Regular exercise.

Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, as these are high in folate and B vitamins along with loads of other protective antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Diet and lifestyle are pivotal to gaining, and maintaining good health. With the incidence of Alzheimer’s predicated to decrease dramatically during the next 10-40 years, prevention may be the only cure. Eating well, avoiding toxins and getting regular exercise are absolute essentials to help slow the incidence of this debilitating condition.


[2] M.Michaud et al. Proinflammatory cytokines, Ageing, and Age Related Diseases. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2013 Jun 20.
[3] Agrawal. R, Gomez-Pinilla. F ‘Metabolic syndrome’ in the brain: deficiency in omega-3 fatty acid exacerbates dysfunctions in insulin receptor signalling and cognition. J Physiol. May 2012
[4] Smith. D. A et al. Homocysteine-Lowering by B Vitamins Slows the Rate of Accelerated Brain Atrophy in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Randomized Controlled Trial. September 2010.