Keep large amounts of fruits, vegetables, beans and cereal grains on hand. Use olive oil in cooking. Eat moderate amounts of fish, dairy and wine, with limited consumption of red meat and poultry.

These nutritional offerings make up the Mediterranean diet, and reports in a January study published in Neurology showed that following this diet routine helps reduce brain shrinkage. When the brain begins shrinking, we lose brain cells that affect learning and memory.

Participants in the study who adhered to the Mediterranean diet had a higher overall measurement of brain volume than those that didn't follow the diet closely.

Foods containing resveratrol, a natural compound found in certain plants, also reduce inflamation in the brain. Such foods like dark chocolate, grapes, blueberries and raspberries can reduce the reaction of the buildup of proteins that cause increased inflammation and worsen the disease.

Certain snack foods also can reduce the onset of Alzheimer's and boost brain health. Peanuts, widely known to have beneficial effects on cholesterol in reducing blood pressure and having cancer-prevention properties, are a source of niacin and vitamin E, two nutrients shown to protect against Alzheimer's and age-related cognitive decline. Peanuts also contain resveratrol, which in studies have shown to reduce beta-amyloid plaque, a type of protein fragment that forms in the brain and triggers Alzheimer's disease.

Another snack food, sunflower seeds, also contains Vitamin E and is linked to the reduction of Alzheimer's disease. This vitamin helps protect against oxidative damage in the brain and may help inhibit the negative effects of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain.

It has long been known that inflammation in the brain plays a role in the changes that occur in Alzheimer's disease. Because coffee has powerful antioxidants that can reduce this inflammation, studies in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease found that individuals over the age of 65 who drank three cups of coffee daily reduced the onset of Alzheimer's by two years, as compared with individuals in the study that had lower caffeine levels.

In addition to coffee, tea has a host of health benefits, particularly green tea, which combined with exercise has been shown to improve cognition and stave off or slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. A flavanoid in green tea, epigallocathechin-3-gallate, can bind beta-amyloid proteins to prevent formations and the onset of the disease. Drinking green tea also is known to also increase brain activity in the areas of the brain responsible for memory function. While studies of the effects of green tea on brain health look promising, there is a lot of work to be done before it can actually be used as a treatment method for individuals with Alzheimer's disease.


Questions about Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, director of services at Alzheimer's Services of the Capital Area at advice@alzbr.org or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.