With her crippling loss of cognition, judgment and memory, dementia is a truly devastating condition. And it is generalized. Alzheimer’s disease – the most common cause of dementia in older adults – currently affects more than 6.2 million Americans. Experts predict the incidence will double by 2050.
Many scientists believe they are close to unraveling the mystery of what causes dementia – and what can be done to help prevent it. In a new japanese study, researchers found that the risk of dementia could be reduced with a simple intervention (the one that natural health experts have been advising all along!): a high-fiber diet. Let’s look at some of the ways a plant-based, fiber-rich diet can help promote healthy cognition and reduce the risk of dementia in aging adults.
Decades-long research on the effects of a high-fiber diet offers good news about dementia risk
In a study published last month in Nutritional Neuroscience, researchers asked more than 3,500 participants between the ages of 40 and 64 to complete surveys reflecting their food intake dating back 15 years. Participants were then followed for an additional 20 years. This extensive but simple research technique revealed an unequivocal result: scientists found that people who ate the most fiber had the lowest risk of dementia.
While the two types of dietary fiber – soluble and insoluble fiber – are both crucial for health, the team reported that soluble fiber from oats and legumes were more effective in reducing the risk of dementia. Researchers have hypothesized that soluble fiber regulates gut bacteria, helping to decrease neuroinflammation that triggers dementia. High-fiber diets may also help reduce body weight, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and improve blood sugar control. In addition to reducing risk factors for heart disease, these changes may further reduce the risk of dementia.
Additional research shows high-fiber diets reduce production of inflammatory molecules
This new study isn’t the only research showing that a high-fiber diet can benefit the brain. Another recent study published in Frontiers in Immunology suggested that eating fiber-rich foods may help delay brain aging by stimulating the production of butyrate (a short-chain fatty acid shown in animal studies) to improve memory and reduce inflammation. High fiber diets also appear to reduce the expression of interleukin, an inflammatory cytokine produced in the body. Additionally, fiber provides fuel for beneficial gut bacteria, which researchers believe can strongly influence cognition and mood.
But that’s not all. A 2021 review published in Antioxidants showed that plant foods are associated with “significant beneficial effects on cognitive function.” The improvements occurred “across the board” in young and old participants – and benefited them regardless of their cognitive status. In other words, those who were cognitively ‘normal’, those with mild cognitive impairment and those with severe dementia all benefited from the plant-based diet – a very encouraging result.
What are the best fiber-rich foods for cognitive health?
Green leafy vegetables — like romaine lettuce, spinach, and dandelion greens — and cruciferous vegetables, like Brussels sprouts, bok choy, broccoli, and cauliflower, seem to “dominate the roost” in this regarding cognitive benefits. Dandelion greens, in particular, receive high marks for their high levels of fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin A. Cruciferous vegetables contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds called isothiocyanate. Plus, these high-fiber vegetables are all high in folate (or vitamin B9), which can reduce levels of homocysteine, an inflammatory chemical linked to heart disease.
Second only to vegetables in the ability to promote cognitive health are berries. Blueberries, in particular, contain purple/blue plant pigments called anthocyanins, which have been linked to cognitive benefits. In a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, wild blueberry juice supplementation improved memory in the elderly. As for ruby red strawberries, they contain a compound known as fisetin, which has been linked to improvements in memory and cognition. An influential study found that subjects who ate higher amounts of strawberries were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who didn’t indulge in berries! Blackberries, raspberries, and mulberries are also good choices for promoting cognitive health.
Other foods believed to support healthy brain function include nuts, oats, beans, olive oil, avocados, fatty cold-water fish, poultry, and green tea.
Slow cognitive decline with good nutrition and smart lifestyle choices
Although no diet can reverse advanced dementia, many natural health experts believe good nutrition has the potential to slow the early stages of cognitive decline and dementia. When it comes to specific diets to combat the onset of dementia, many natural health experts advise the MIND diet, short for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Diseases. This healthy way of eating combines aspects of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet with those of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.
To note: Whether it’s hiding in condiments like ketchup or hiding in plain sight on powdered donuts, refined sugar really is “bad news” for cognitive health. (The same goes for fried and processed foods, which can contain harmful trans fats). Too much sodium (salt) consumption can also threaten cognitive health. Instead, opt for lemon, black pepper, and spices like basil and rosemary.
By the way, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises adults to consume 25-38 grams of fiber daily, of which 21-30 grams is recommended for people over 50. fiber intake level. This is unfortunate – because when it comes to maintaining health, numerous studies have confirmed the superiority of a plant-based, fiber-rich diet over the conventional Standard American Diet (aptly abbreviated as SAD! )
Maybe it’s time to consider phasing out the SAD-ness — and incorporating more plant-based foods into your meals. Your body – and your mind! – will thank you.
Republished from NaturalHealth365