Dr. Perlmutter on Diet and Dementia Prevention

Diet and Dementia Prevention

I have written several times about the worrisome trends related to Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline in general that we are seeing in Western cultures, particularly here in United States. Alzheimer’s disease is now recognized as the third leading cause of death in America, and it’s costing us over $200 billion each year to care for those individuals suffering from this disorder.

What is so frustrating about Alzheimer’s disease, from my perspective as a physician, is the heart-wrenching fact that there is no meaningful treatment for this condition whatsoever. Further, in looking forward, it doesn’t appear that there is anything we should expect in the next 5 to 10 years that will have any meaningful effect in terms of turning this situation around.

We do know two important things about Alzheimer’s disease. First, we know that it is becoming far more common, and that speaks against it being a straightforward genetic issue. Certainly there are genetic components to this disease, but the fact that it is increasing in its incidence speaks more for environmental or modifiable issues being involved. If it were a straightforward genetic situation, we wouldn’t expect to see it increasing as rampantly as it is. In fact, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s is predicted to double in just the next 15 years.

Second, there is no question, as confirmed by leading medical institutions, that lifestyle factors do in fact have a dramatic effect on determining who does and who does not get this disease. That is to say, that we now clearly understand that certain lifestyle choices, most importantly diet, play a critical role as confirmed in a powerful report appearing in the journal Neurology, June 2, 2015.  In this report, researchers from around the world got together to determine the effect of a “healthy diet” in terms of preventing or at least reducing the risk for dementia. The study followed close to 28,000 men and women over 56 months. Of that group,4699 individuals developed cognitive decline. What the study ultimately demonstrated was that there is a significant correlation between diet and risk for dementia.Those eating the healthiest diets actually were found to have a reduced risk of becoming demented by 24%. The decline in risk for dementia was consistent regardless of the cognitive function when people began the trial. The authors stated, “Improved diet quality represents an important potential target for reducing the global burden of cognitive decline”.

So, I want to frame my comments on this report succinctly. Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is a situation for which there is no treatment. Now we are seeing well-respected medical journals telling us that lifestyle issues play an important role in reducing a person ‘s risk for this untreatable problem.Unfortunately, most of the readers of this post will not likely have heard of this research. Rather, we are bombarded each and every evening on the nightly news by advertisements for various medications, which we are led to believe, may be helpful with respect to Alzheimer ‘s disease. Unfortunately, no such drug exists. Information such as these researchers have painstakingly revealed never seems to make its way to gain significant public attention. Nonetheless, there is certainly dramatic importance to anything that is associated with a reduced risk for dementia. In this case, the recommendation comes full circle as we think back over 2000 years ago to the words of Hippocrates telling us how important our food choices are in terms of health and risk for disease.

Dr. David Perlmutter M.D.

About Dr. Perlmutter: David Perlmutter, M.D., is an expert in the human microbiome, a board-certified neurologist, Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, America’s brain-health expert and #1 New York Times best-selling author.

This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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