Foods that Help Reduce Dementia Risk
Are you concerned about the possibility of developing dementia in the future? It’s a scary thought, but there are some things you can do to potentially lower your risk. One of them is eating the right foods! There is evidence that certain foods can help promote brain health and reduce the likelihood of developing cognitive decline. If you’re already diagnosed with dementia, these diets may also reduce progression of cognitive decline. So, let’s take a look at some delicious and nutritious foods that you can add to your diet to help keep your brain sharp and healthy. Although much of the research has been focussed on Western cuisines, there are also Asian diet patterns and foods that help reduce dementia risk that we will cover.
MIND Diet & Dementia
The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH diets and has been developed to specifically target brain health.
The Mediterranean diet is one of the most widely studied diets for its potential benefits on cognitive health, while the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is another pattern that has been associated with a lower risk of dementia. The DASH diet was originally designed to reduce high blood pressure.
The MIND diet combines the two diets and emphasises foods that have been linked to cognitive health, including green leafy vegetables, berries, whole grains, nuts, fish, poultry, and olive oil. The MIND diet also encourages limiting the intake of red meat, high-fat dairy, and sweets.
A study of over 900 older adults found that those who adhered to the MIND diet had a 53% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who did not follow the MIND diet (4). This study also found that adherence to the MIND diet was associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: A Well-Researched Food Nutrient that Helps Reduce Dementia
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that are found in fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, as well as in nuts and seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that may help protect against cognitive decline and dementia.
A systematic review of observational studies found that higher omega-3 fatty acid intake was associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia (5). However, randomized controlled trials have had mixed results, with some studies showing no significant effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on cognitive function, while others have shown modest benefits (6). Nevertheless, many experts recommend consuming fatty fish at least twice a week or taking omega-3 supplements to obtain the potential cognitive benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
Asian Foods that Help Reduce Dementia
Now that we’ve covered the Western research, let’s explore the key elements of the Asian diet that have also been linked to a reduced risk of dementia.
Plant-based foods: The traditional Asian diet, similar to the diets above, is predominantly plant-based, with a focus on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. These foods are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that help protect the brain against damage caused by free radicals .
Fish and seafood: Asian diets are usually rich in fish and seafood, which are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. As explained above, Omega-3s have been shown to have numerous benefits for brain health, including reducing inflammation, improving blood flow, and protecting against the accumulation of beta-amyloid, a protein that forms plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients .
Fermented foods: Fermented foods, such as kimchi, miso, and tempeh, are staples of the Asian diet. These foods are rich in probiotics, beneficial bacteria that help maintain a healthy gut microbiome. There is a link between gut health and brain health, and a healthy gut microbiome may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia .
Green tea: Green tea is popular in many Asian countries, and for good reason. Green tea is rich in catechins, which are antioxidants that have been shown to have neuroprotective effects. One study found that green tea catechins may help improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of cognitive impairment .
Soy is a staple in many Asian diets and is known for its health benefits. It’s a rich source of protein and contains compounds called isoflavones, which have been shown to have neuroprotective properties. Isoflavones help protect the brain against inflammation and may even promote the growth of new brain cells . So, consider adding tofu, edamame, or soy milk to your meals.
Spices and herbs: Many Asian spices and herbs have been shown to have beneficial effects on brain health. For example, turmeric, a spice commonly used in Indian cuisine, contains a compound called curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Studies have suggested that curcumin may help improve memory and reduce the risk of cognitive decline . Other herbs and spices that may have neuroprotective effects include ginger, garlic, and cinnamon.
The Asian diet is rich in plant-based foods, fish and seafood, fermented foods, green tea, soy, and spices and herbs, foods that help reduce dementia. Other Asian foods that reduce dementia include nuts, ginseng, seaweed, red beans, among many others. So, with making sure you maximise the natural plant-based components of your Asian dishes, you can still enjoy your usual diet, plus gain the benefits of a healthy brain! One easy way to do that is to include more vegetables in your meals, which was shown to reduce dementia in Japanese elderly (17), while the risk of dementia was 33% lower in vegetarians in a Taiwan study (18).
Other Nutrients and Dementia
In addition to omega-3 fatty acids, several other nutrients have been linked to cognitive health and may help prevent or delay the onset of dementia. These include:
- B vitamins: Several observational studies have found that low levels of B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12 and folate, are associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia (7). However, randomized controlled trials of B vitamin supplementation have had mixed results (8).
- Vitamin D: Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia, although the evidence is not yet conclusive (9). Some studies have found that vitamin D supplementation may improve cognitive function in older adults (10).
- Antioxidants: Antioxidants, such as vitamin E and vitamin C, may help protect against oxidative damage and inflammation in the brain, which are believed to play a role in the development of dementia (11). However, randomized controlled trials of antioxidant supplementation have not shown consistent benefits (12).
There are many healthful foods that help reduce dementia risk and they can play a critical role in cognitive health. Several dietary patterns and nutrients have been linked to a lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia. The Mediterranean, DASH, and MIND diets are three dietary patterns that have been associated with improved cognitive function and a lower risk of dementia. Omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamin D, and antioxidants are several nutrients found in various foods that help reduce dementia that help protect against cognitive decline and dementia. Ample evidence suggests that including a diet with foods that help reduce dementia is an important strategy for maintaining cognitive health and preventing or delaying the onset of dementia. So go ahead, speak to our iKare Dietitian to find out how you can fit these dietary patterns into your culinary and individual preferences!
for Dementia Support: For more information, you can call.
- HPB Dementia Infoline: 1800 223 1123. For general inquiries on dementia
- Institute of Mental Health (IMH): 6389 2000. For general inquiries on clinical services and psychiatric care.
- Samaritans of Singapore (SOS): 1800 221 4444. Emotional support for anyone in.
- Dementia Singapore: 6377 0700. For caregiver support and dementia care services.
- Singapore Association of Mental Health (SAMH): 1800 283 7019. For general inquiries on rehabilitative and outreach services
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