Improvements in healthcare in the past century have led to people living longer and healthier lives. However,this has also resulted in non-communicable diseases,including neuro-degenerative chronic diseases such as Alzheimers.
Alzheimers is a progressive disease,where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over the years. Symptoms include disturbance of multiple functions,including memory,thinking,orientation,comprehension,calculation,learning capacity,language and judgement. The impairments of cognitive function are commonly accompanied,and occasionally preceded,by deterioration in emotional control,social behaviour or motivation.
According to estimates,the 35.6 million people worldwide living with Alzheimers will double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050. Not only are the numbers growing,but the age onset is also dropping to as early as 40-50s.
The good news is that 50-60 per cent cases can be prevented by simply addressing lifestyle changes. Moreover,since treatments are few and rarely effective,early diagnosis and prevention become all the more important. Diet is paramount. Several studies have indicated encouraging correlations.
A strong correlation between between insulin resistance in the brain and Alzheimers has been found,leading some to now classify Alzheimers as a type 3 diabetes. According to neurologist Dr David Perlmutter,Alzheimers is an entirely preventable disease,driven by lifestyle factors such as diet. According to him,a low fat diet and over consumption of carbohydrates are at the heart of the Alzheimers epidemic.
Further,he believes that gluten (the protein in wheat,barley and oats) also makes our gut more permeable,which allows proteins to get into the bloodstream,sensitising the immune system and promoting inflammation and autoimmunity,both of which play a role in the development of Alzheimers.
Interestingly,good fats have also been found to be protective. These include fish oils,avocado,nuts,seeds and virgin coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil has received a great deal of attention with respect to its protective role in preventing Alzheimers.
A study published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging in 2004 showed that after administering coconut oil to Alzheimers patients,there was a significant improvement in cognitive performance.
While more research certainly needs to be done in this area,considering its profound benefits,coconut oil and coconut products can be incorporated into our diets. Coconut oil can be stirred into our soups,breakfast cereals,desserts or salads.
Tips to maintain healthy brain function
* Limit sugar and fructose
* Optimise your gut flora with regular intake of fermented foods or high-potency and high quality probiotic supplements
* Increase consumption of all healthful fats
* Improve your magnesium levels in your body.
* Optimise your vitamin D levels
* Include foods rich in B vitamins including Vitamin B12,folic acid and Alpha lipoic acid (ALA)
n Keep your fasting insulin levels low
* Exercise regularly. Its been suggested that exercise can slow down the onset and progression of Alzheimers
* Mental stimulation,especially learning something new,such as learning to play an instrument or a new language,is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimers
* Avoid use of aluminium,such as anti-perspirants,non-stick cookware etc.
* Limit or avoid drugs including certain night-time pain relievers,anti-histamines,sleep aids,anti-depressants,medications to control incontinence,and narcotic pain relievers
Ishi khosla is a former senior nutritionist at Escorts. She heads the Centre of Dietary Counselling and also runs a health food store. She feels that for complete well-being,one should integrate physical,mental and spiritual health. According to her: To be healthy should be the ultimate goal for all.