Eating and drinking for memory
Roughly one-third of people aged 85 and older have some form of Alzheimer’s disease which occurs through a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.
Memory loss is perhaps the most well-known symptom of Alzheimer’s, which can have a devastating effect on an individual’s ability to remember familiar people, places and environments.
Our memories allow us to add context to situations and have a direct impact on our ability to maintain meaningful relationships with those around us.
Memories are also the foundations of who we are after a lifetime of experiences.
Professor Michael Woodward AM has spent years conducting research in the fields of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and he sat down with HelloCare to outline how our diet and nutritional choices can influence the strength of our memory.
“From a biological standpoint, the main cause of the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease comes down to a loss of synapses within the brain,” said Professor Woodward.
“Synapses are the connections between our brain cells where we store our memories. We actually prune our synapses when we discard memories and we make new synapses when we have something new to remember.”
“We believe that the root cause of Alzheimer’s disease is toxic proteins (amyloids and tau) that damage our existing synapses, affecting our memory. These proteins also hinder our ability to create new synapses and retain new memories.”
Prospective Cures & Prevention
At this point, science has not yet figured out a way to restore a person’s memory or clinical function after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but there are lifestyle changes that can be made to make us more resilient to the symptoms and protect us from the effects of the disease.
Brain exercises in the form of quizzes and puzzles can build synapses within the brain which means that you have some in reserve to combat any toxic proteins and modify the effects of Alzheimer’s.
There has been some very promising news in recent times regarding the clinical benefits of drugs that remove amyloid plaque from the brain, but according to Professor Woodward, there is still a lot more research that needs to be done.
“There are drugs we know that actually remove amyloids, but they haven’t been shown to have a clinical benefit. We still have to figure out what doses to use and when to use them – and these are the sorts of hypotheses that we are trialing now in various studies around the world,” said Professor Woodward.
“At this point, we have yet to discover a way in which we can neutralise those proteins that affect memory in the brain, so we need to do everything we can to help preserve the function of the synapses that we do have while the presence of these toxic proteins continues.”
“A healthy lifestyle is vital, and a key element of that is ensuring that your brain is receiving the right nutrients, and you do this through diet and supplementation.”
Nutrition For The Past & Present
While there are a plethora of new diets popping up on a regular basis boasting rapid weight loss, it turns out that adjusting your diet to support memory and cognitive function requires an individual to go back to the basics.
The ‘Mediterranean Diet’ is characterised by high consumption of vegetables, fruits, grains, and olive oil as well as a minimal consumption of protein outside of fish.
There are numerous health benefits associated with eating in this manner, and one of those benefits is a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Professor Woodward explains that the benefits of eating a Mediterranean Diet are derived from the nutrition within the food and that supplements are also a fantastic way of ensuring that your brain is functioning at an optimal level.
“This diet contains a range of nutrients and antioxidants that help to preserve brain function, but unfortunately, with Alzheimer’s you need a much larger intake to help replace damaged synapses and it’s not easy to get all these nutrients solely from your diet as Alzheimer’s progresses,” said Professor Woodward.
“This diet is fantastic to help prevent Alzheimer’s before it occurs, but once you are well down the path of living with Alzheimer’s it becomes increasingly difficult to get enough of these essential nutrients in your diet.”
“That’s the reason it’s so valuable that you can find the sorts of foods that are in the Mediterranean Diet in a well-balanced product like Souvenaid®.”
Souvenaid is a food for special medical purposes specifically designed to nutritionally support memory function in people with early Alzheimer’s disease. It does this by providing the key nutrients required for the growth of synapses within the brain, including nutrients such as uridine that is difficult to acquire through food alone.
“To be honest, a person would probably have to eat several kilos of food to attain the same levels of nutrients that are in a bottle of Souvenaid, which is not really practical unless you happen to be a rhinoceros,” said Professor Woodward.
A current study that was funded by the European Union has shown that people living with Alzheimer’s disease who used Souvenaid had significantly less decline in memory and brain function after a three year period when compared to those who had a placebo.
The study also showed that the Souvenaid users had a reduced rate of shrinkage in the hippocampus area of the brain which is most commonly affected by Alzheimer’s.
“Shrinkage of this area of the brain is one of the things we look for on scans to diagnose Alzheimer’s, and if you can reduce that shrinkage in the hippocampus, it would suggest that Souvenaid is helping to negate the effects of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Professor Woodward.
“People need to have a good diet and a healthy lifestyle to help combat Alzheimer’s, and if you combine these things with Souvenaid, you are giving your brain every chance to preserve its memories.”