In my last blog post, I discussed the various subtypes of Alzheimer's disease that Alzheimer’s researcher, Dr. Dale Bredesen, has discovered. For the most effective treatment, it's important to determine which specific subtype of Alzheimer’s disease a person has. This requires working with a medical practitioner trained in the Bredesen Protocol.
However, there are some lifestyle changes that can make a big difference for you now. These have prevented and slowed cognitive decline for many people. Some basic principles can apply to each subtype of Alzheimer's disease.
One of those lifestyle changes is diet. The right diet is crucial to preventing and treating cognitive decline.
We recommend a mildly ketogenic diet. That is a diet very low in carbohydrates like grains and sugars. We use the “12/3 Ketoflex Diet” (developed by Dr. Bredesen).
The “12/3” part of this diet refers to the timing of your meals. There should be at least 12 hours between your last meal or snack of the day and the first food you eat the next morning. Also, the last food of the day should be consumed 3 hours before bedtime. This is a kind of intermittent fasting.
If you already know you have the APOE4 gene (which increases your risk of Alzheimer's disease) then a 14-16 hour nighttime fasting interval is going to be better for you.
Intermittent fasting helps your body burn fat for fuel rather than glucose and also helps to improve insulin sensitivity. Both of these changes improve cognition. Consuming your last food of the day 3 hours before sleeping helps to regulate insulin and also improves the balance of several hormones important for cognition.
Now you know when to eat. What should you eat?
Mostly non-starchy vegetables, lots of healthy fats, and modest amounts of healthy, well-sourced proteins. Here are the details:
First, prioritize non-starchy vegetables: They should be two-thirds of the food on your plate. These vegetables provide many essential nutrients and fiber without raising blood sugar and insulin levels. Each day, aim for a variety of colorful, low-carbohydrate vegetables.
It’s okay to eat some starchy vegetables (like sweet potatoes) and low-glycemic fruits (like berries). But consume these in moderation: they raise insulin and blood sugar levels, which increases inflammation. Inflammation is bad for cognition.
The produce you eat should be organic whenever possible. Particularly if it is on the Environmental Working Group's “dirty dozen” list, which can be found at EWG.org. According to EWG, you can reduce your exposure to harmful agricultural chemicals by 90% by switching to organic for just those twelve fruits and vegetables on their “dirty dozen” list.
Have you noticed that whole grains, sugar, and most fruits do not play a role in this approach? This is key for reducing harmful inflammation.
Healthy fats are a crucial component to this diet. Fat is a friend to cognition, not an enemy.
For healthy fats, you’re looking for polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats. Oils in your diet should be organic, unrefined, and cold-pressed. Examples are extra virgin olive oil, medium-chain triglyceride (MTC) coconut oil, virgin coconut oil, and avocado oil. These fats can also come from whole food sources like avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds.
Omega 3 oils, from fish or algae, are a key component of a brain-healthy diet. Omega 3s must be consumed in our diet, because our bodies cannot produce them. The above-mentioned fish can be a good source, but consumption of these fish needs to be limited due to their high protein and potential mercury content. So, the best route is to get a high-quality fish or algae oil supplement, because these can be guaranteed to be mercury-free.
Try to avoid processed vegetable and grain-based oils such as corn and soy oils.
This diet does not heavily emphasize protein. Most men should have 50-70 grams a day; most women should have 40-60 grams per day. If you eat too much protein, as some ketogenic diets recommend, your body may convert it to sugar. Sugars cause inflammation and are bad for brain health.
Good protein sources are eggs, nuts, seeds, soy, and meat. Consider making meat more of a condiment rather than the main course. The ideal in this diet is to limit your consumption to 2-3 ounces of meat, just a few times a week.
Healthy sources of meat include pastured poultry, 100% grass-fed beef, lamb, or bison, or low-mercury, wild-caught fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring (SMASH is a good mnemonic for this list).
Finally, we want to limit or completely avoid refined, processed foods. Processing introduces several damaging molecules into the food. Refined, processed foods have a tendency to be high-glycemic as well. What is a processed food? If it comes with an ingredient list, it's processed.
Dairy and gluten are inflammatory for some people. Therefore, it is also recommended for most people to consider avoiding or limiting them.
These dietary changes can serve as a starting point for most people. However, some people have their own, specific, food sensitivities or intolerances. For example, if a person has the subtype of Alzheimer's that is primarily driven by inflammation, some foods recommended above could actually be causing that inflammation. Determining what the food intolerances are and removing those foods will be an important part of that person’s treatment plan. In that case, working with a healthcare provider is necessary.
If you'd like to read a more in-depth explanation of a brain-healthy diet I'd recommend Dr. Bredesen's book, The End Of Alzheimer's. At Atma Clinic, we are fortunate to have a team who can help you learn about and implement this diet. We can also create an Alzheimer’s disease or cognitive decline treatment plan tailored specifically to you. To learn more and schedule your free consultation, call us at (785) 760-0695 or send us a message on our Contact Us page.
No information on this website is medical advice or a substitute for medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional if you have specific questions about your health.