Brain health scientists launch nutrition focused Alzheimer’s Prevention Day

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

© thesomegirl / Getty Images
© thesomegirl / Getty Images

Related tags Alzheimer's disease Brain health Cognitive health omega-3

Brain health scientists from across the globe have come together to launch Alzheimer’s Prevention Day on May 15 to raise awareness of nutritional strategies for the prevention of cognitive decline.

While the average person might assume that Alzheimer's risk is genetic, the reality is that only about one in a 100 cases are caused by genes. This newly formed international group of experts hopes to bust the gene myth and get people thinking more about nutrition and lifestyle.

“It may be possible to prevent up to 80% of dementia cases if all known risk factors, including homocysteine lowering B vitamins and omega-3, found in oily fish, were targeted.” said China’s leading prevention expert Professor Jin-Tai Yu, from Fudan University in Shanghai, who has joined the initiative.

Dr. William Harris, an American professor, researcher and leading expert in omega-3, has added his voice to the cause, saying:  “I supplement omega-3 and eat the ‘smash’ fish (Salmon, Mackerel, either Anchovies or Albacore tuna, Sardines, Herring) high in omega-3. My advice is to get your omega-3 index up into the healthy zone and keep it there.”

Also joining the roster of 30 world leading brain health scientists across the U.S., UK, China and Japan is Professor David Smith, former Deputy Head of the University of Oxford’s Medical Science division, who has conducted research indicating up to 73% less brain shrinkage​ in those consuming B vitamin supplements and sufficient omega-3s.

“With no clinically effective drugs and minimal role of genes, our focus must be on making diet and lifestyle changes that reduce risk of developing dementia,” he said.

The  Alzheimer’s Prevention Day launch will include a website​ with information and a three minute Alzheimer’s Prevention Check, which people can use to get an indication of what lifestyle factors might be driving their future risk and what they can do to reduce it. Each expert has recorded a three-minute film of a single action anyone can take to prevent Alzheimer’s. 

As well as omega-3 and B-vitamin intake, nutrition advice will also consider sugar and ultra-processed food consumption.

Sharing her nutrition advice for those at risk of insulin resistance, Harvard-trained psychiatrist Dr. Georgia Ede recommends cutting carbohydrates.

“Alzheimer's is sometimes called 'type 3 diabetes' because 80% of cases show insulin resistance​, which makes it difficult for the brain to use carbohydrate for energy,” she said. “A ketogenic diet improves insulin resistance and generates ketones from fat to help energize the brain.”

Stephen Cunnane, professor at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Sherbrooke, Canada, has conducted research showing that in people at the start of Alzheimer's, the cognitive benefits of a ketogenic drink​ are directly due to improved energy levels in the brain.

Additional nutrition tips include the consumption of gut healthy foods and antioxidant and polyphenol rich vegetables, berries and spices, as well as quality sleep and keeping the mind socially and intellectually active.

“An active lifestyle is a key prevention step for Alzheimer’s,” said Tommy Wood, assistant professor of neuroscience at the University of Washington. “In particular, improving muscle mass and strength is strongly linked to less dementia risk and better brain health, with significant benefits even if we start exercising later in life. Getting enough sleep is also essential to help the brain recover.”

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