Eat to beat dementia nourish your brain and reduce your risk
While there’s no magic cure-all for dementia, eating well can reduce your risk. Jane Druker meets Dr emma Derbyshire PhD to learn more
Qhow does dementia affect people? It’s defined as neuro cognitive impairment, including memory problems that interfere with daily life. It eventually prevents sufferers living on their own and is the leading cause of death in women in the uK.
QWhy do one in six women develop the condition compared with just one in 11 men? the older you are, the more likely you are to develop dementia. so, the fact that women tend to live longer than men may skew these statistics.
QWhy is what you eat important? all studies show poor nutrition will damage the brain over time. though the brain comprises only 2% of the body by weight, it uses up to 25% of its energy. this means our brains are especially affected by the food we eat. the brain is 60% fat, so fatty acids such as omega-3 and 6 are vital for its structure and function.
QWhich key vitamins and minerals do we need in our diet? the ones essential to brain health are vitamins b1, b3, b5, b12 and C, folic acid, magnesium, selenium and zinc. It’s key to have a healthy, balanced diet high in fruit, veg and specific b-vitamins, supplemented with omega-3 and 6 fatty acid capsules – crucial for brain development.
QWhat’s the worst food to eat? High salt, sugar and saturated fat intakes should be avoided. there is growing evidence that a high-sugar diet could increase dementia risk by contributing to vascular damage via elevated blood glucose. Cut back on sugar as much as possible and make sweets a rare treat instead of a regular occurrence. avoid processed foods like crisps and biscuits, and processed meats like salami and chorizo – they tend to be filled with preservatives, salt and saturated fats.
QWhat makes up a great diet? a lower risk of dementia and improved memory has been widely associated with a diet that includes a steady source of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, unprocessed wholegrains and certain types of fish, especially oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring). also extra virgin olive oil is an excellent source of fatty acids and plant nutrients, so is a good oil for helping brain health.
Qare vitamins necessary as well as a healthy diet? our dietary intakes of oily fish – a valuable source of omega-3 – are worryingly low. the National Diet and Nutrition survey says that the average adult consumes 54g of oily fish a week – less than half the recommended intake of 140g. given that oily fish is grossly under-consumed, taking a clinically proven omega-3 supplement that contains the right dose of the right fatty acids could be one way to help bridge the shortfall.