Monday, 31 December 2012

Diet, is this one of the causes of Dementia?

Did you know that changes in your diet may well help to prevent the onset of dementia? Working in the care industry, even though I am office based, has massively opened my eyes to the despair endured by loving relatives of sufferers of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. How many of you know someone whose mental capacity is declining in this way?

According to The Alzheimer's Society in the UK, the number of people suffering from Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease is growing each year :

  • There are currently 800,000 people with dementia in the UK.
  • There are over 17,000 younger people with dementia in the UK.
  • There are over 11,500 people with dementia from black and minority ethnic groups in the UK.
  • There will be over a million people with dementia by 2021.
  • Two thirds of people with dementia are women.
  • The proportion of people with dementia doubles for every 5 year age group.
  • One third of people over 95 have dementia.

The figures in the United States are just as devastating. So what is causing this escalation in dementia? Is it due to genetics or could it be environmental factors or could it be caused by diet? The answer is probably yes to all three!

But is there some way we can try to protect ourselves from this terrible condition? I believe there is, I believe that in some cases diet could be a major contributor and there is strong evidence to support this.

The change in diet from wholesome fresh food to more convenient, processed food from the late 60's and 70's onwards has perhaps been one factor in the growth of the condition. In 2005, research undertaken by Dr Suzanne De La Monte and colleagues discovered that insulin and its related proteins are produced in the brain and not just in the pancreas and that reduced levels of both are linked to Alzheimer's Disease, in fact AD is sometimes referred to as Type 3 Diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that permanently destroys beta cells in the pancreas, meaning that the body can no longer produce insulin. People with type 1 diabetes therefore require regular insulin delivery to manage their diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when insulin is not used effectively by the body resulting in Insulin resistance and Hyperglycemia

The link between AD and Type 2 diabetes has been known for some time now, people suffering from Type 2 diabetes are two to three times more likely to develop AD. In 2011, a study by researchers at Newcastle University discovered that an extreme eight-week diet of 600 calories a day was found to reverse Type 2 diabetes in a high proportion of people newly diagnosed with the disease. Surely, if there is a link between Type 2 Diabetes and AD and Type 2 can possibly be reversed by diet then there is now a way forward to reduce the incidence of dementia and AD.

How can you improve your diet? Should you be thinking of taking supplements? I'm not medically qualified to answer the latter however there is plenty of information on the web regarding supplements of B Vitamins (especially B12) as well as Vitamins C, D and E but please do take advice from your medical practitioner if you decide to go down that route.

As for diet, I'm not a qualified nutritionist but there is plenty of evidence to support a change in diet. Apparently, adding blueberries to your diet may make a significant difference in fact research has suggested that all fruits with high antioxidant levels such as prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums, oranges, red grapes and cherries may protect brain cells. It is also believed that greatly reducing the consumption of foods that cause blood sugar to spike and then drop can also help to prevent dementia and improve memory loss. These foods include sugar, starchy vegetables and baked goods made with white flour.

The reason for writing this post is not to advise but to make people more aware of dementia and AD and maybe to encourage them to look into the evidence for themselves. I hope you've found it interesting.