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Alzheimer’s disease has no effective treatment or cure, but there are things you can do to lower your risk of getting this disease. This includes exercising regularly, eating foods that nourish the brain, monitoring your diet—especially your sugar intake—and watching your glucose levels. Why monitor your glucose levels? Because diabetics have a 65% increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease so it seems that taking steps to prevent diabetes can also be an important step in preventing Alzheimer’s.
Reduce your sugar/glucose to increase your brain power
With 15 million cases of Alzheimer’s in the U.S. predicted by 2050, you can take steps now to avoid being among that statistic. One of the primary fuels that the brain needs to convert to energy is glucose. If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic/insulin resistant, your body has a weakened response to insulin,which is necessary to process (or regulate) blood sugar. When your brain’s insulin production decreases, your brain is deprived of the glucose-converted energy and your brain literally starves. The brain begins to atrophy and this leads to impaired functioning – and eventually you’ll lose memory, speech, personality traits, and certain movements.
How can you stop this? Luckily your brain can run on other types of energy supplies as well – and one of them is ketones.
Ketone bodies, or ketoacids, act to nourish the brain and prevent its atrophy. Ketones may even restore and renew the function of your neurons after the damage has set in. Your body produces ketones when converting fat into energy – and one of the primary sources of ketone bodies is medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) found in something you may have in your pantry: coconut oil.
Coconut oil may help prevent Alzheimer’s
Coconut oil contains around 66% MCTs and when you consume the oil you stimulate your own production of ketone bodies. How much coconut oil is necessary to start the process? It’s best to start out slowly and work your way up to therapeutic doses. Just over two tablespoons (seven teaspoons) of the oil contains the therapeutic dosage of about 20 grams of MCTs. Take it in the morning, as the oil takes at least three hours to convert to ketones and reach your brain. try to build up the dosage over several weeks to get up to about two tablespoons of coconut oil per day – and be sure to pair it with food to prevent stomach discomfort.
You can also find MCTs in other foods like avocado and nuts. Yet, another natural way to increase your body’s ketone production is to restrict the amount of carbohydrates you eat.
Take vitamin B12 for better brain health
A small Finnish study that was published in Neurology found that people who consume foods high in vitamin B12 may reduce their Alzheimer’s risk. Since B12 is found in animal food sources, a strict vegetarian diet is not usually recommended for optimal brain health. Food sources of B12 include:
- Sardines and wild-caught salmon (both of which are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids);
- Organic calf liver;
- Organic grass-fed beef;
- Lamb; and
Other steps to take
Here are some other steps you might want to take to help protect your brain health:
- Maintain adequate Vitamin D levels (from sun or supplements);
- Take Omega-3 supplements;
- Increase your exercise intensity and duration;
- Avoid mercury and remove old amalgam fillings from your teeth;
- Avoid aluminum products (usually found in antiperspirants and cookware);
- Challenge your brain often (puzzles, learning a new instrument etc); and
- Avoid anticholinergic drugs.
Foods to avoid
If you want to keep your mind sharp, you should also avoid these four foods that can be your brain’s worst enemy:
- Sugars (especially fructose);
- Processed grains (which are readily converted to sugar);
- Artificial sweeteners (like aspartame, which is linked to brain damage and brain tumors); and
- Soy (as unfermented soy consumption is associated with low brain weight).
The health decisions you make today can protect your brain in years to come. While some forms of dementia may be reversible with treatment, Alzheimer’s disease has no cure. Incorporating ways to prevent Alzheimer’s into your lifestyle is your best bet at preserving your mental sharpness.
Hooshmand B et al. Homocysteine and holotranscobalamin and the risk of Alzheimer disease: a longitudinal study. Neurology 2010 Oct 19; 75(16): 1408-14