Neal Barnard MD is a nutrition researcher and New York Times best-selling author. In September 2016, he released a powerful and informative TEDx Talk titled ‘Power Foods For the Brain‘. Barnard talks about how he ‘lost’ his dad many years before his actual death to perhaps the most dreaded disease in the world – Alzheimer’s. Most of his talk features Alzheimer-fighting foods as well as what you don’t want in your diet and other things that you can do to help keep your brain disease-free. These are all important actions to take to not just reduce your risk of getting the disease, but also for increasing your overall longevity. Straight from the TEDx Talk, here is a round-up of the 5 best ways to avoid getting Alzheimer’s disease.
Reduce trans-fats and saturated fats intake
The biggest saturated fat sources come from greasy foods like bacon, certain meats and dairy products. Trans-fats are most likely to come from pastries, doughnuts and anything that might tempt you behind the glass at a cafe. Although these types of fats aren’t harmful in lower doses, Neal Barnard highlights two separate studies that show a correlation between higher trans-fats and saturated fat consumption and more frequent cases of Alzheimer’s/Dementia as well as less extreme mild cognitive impairment issues. As always, correlation doesn’t always signal causation but it is something to take into account.
Reduce metals in your system like iron and copper
Just like what happens to coins and in copper piping, over time these metals react with oxygen and get rusty in the process of oxidation. This isn’t just restricted to external elements though; this damaging process also happens in the body. Iron and Copper levels that are too high start to oxidise in your body and produce free radicals – molecules which act like sparks in the brain, singeing connections and playing a key role in the slow-but-sure development of Alzheimer’s. Barnard’s advice? Don’t go overboard with how much iron and copper you consume in your diet/supplements. Also, avoid using rusty pans or drinking water from copper pipes which inevitably get into your system.
Up your Vitamin E intake (but not through supplementation)
Vitamin E is an effective antidote to the oxidising and free radical formation that can take place in your body. Vitamin E acts as a sort of ‘fire extinguisher’ to these free radicals, as it is an anti-oxidant. According to one study that Barnard mentions, people getting 8mg a day cut Alzheimer’s risk by half compared to those who don’t.
He also makes an important point that you should get your Vitamin E naturally and not through supplements. Vitamin E has eight different forms and natural sources like nuts, seeds, mangoes and spinach contain all if not most of them. Legally, ‘Vitamin E supplements’ are allowed to have just one kind. Excessive exposure to just one kind makes your body more resistant to getting the benefits from the other kinds too. Stick to the natural stuff.
Get those colourful fruits and veggies in your diet
Colourful fruits and vegetables should be a staple for those who want to avoid getting Alzheimer’s. The skin of darker fruits like grapes and blueberries are packed with antioxidants and other memory-boosting qualities because of the way they are created by nature. Greens like broccoli and spinach are also known to aid aspects of the brain that are key in the process of memory formation and memory recall.
Exercise moderately and frequently
The final piece to the puzzle that Barnard mentions is to exercise moderately and frequently – although you may be surprised by how little you actually have to do. By frequently, he means three times a week and by moderately, as low as 15-minute walks in the fresh air until you build up to the sweet spot of around 40-minutes. Obviously, any other sport or exercise that you do is a bonus but as a minimum for reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s, a brisk walk for up to 40-minutes three times a week is enough.