You are probably aware of the effect your diet has on your waistline. But did you know that your diet also plays an important role in your cognitive abilities? Studies show that there is a strong link between nutrition and cognitive development. A healthy diet can lower the risk of dementia, while bad dietary habits could lead to cognitive decline and increase the risk of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Link Between Diet and Cognitive Decline
Dementia, which is primarily characterized by cognitive decline, affects a large number of people every year. It is estimated that the problem could affect as many as 130 million people globally by 2050.
One of the reasons why Alzheimer’s and other such forms of dementia are becoming increasingly common these days is our dietary habits. Many of us regularly eat processed food, which contains trans fats, nitrites, and a number of other substances that are known to increase the risk of memory loss and cognitive impairment considerably.
Given here is a list of 10 ingredients that are commonly found in the food that we eat and are known to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s significantly.
Trans fats are harmful not just for your heart, but also for your brain. They clog your arteries and deprive your brain of oxygen. They prevent the formation of apolipoprotein E, which is an essential protein which regulates the amyloids in the brain. Without apolipoprotein E, the amyloids in your brain tend to stick together and form clumps and plaques, which affect neuron function and lead to cognitive impairment.
Unfortunately, almost all the fried and baked goods that you can find on the market today contain trans fats. As a rule of thumb, it is a good idea to avoid anything that contains partially hydrogenated oil, which is the main source of trans fats in most food items.
Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)
AGEs are proteins that become glycated when exposed to sugars. They are formed whenever you cook food at very high temperatures – like deep frying or barbecuing – which results in browning or charring. They can also be found in sugary foods, processed meat, and most prepackaged food products. Just like trans fats, AGEs are known to cause amyloid plaque in your brain, which increases the risk of dementia.
How did the food industry ever convince us that a heavy metal is safe to consume? The truth is that our bodies have simply not evolved to consume aluminum on a regular basis. Despite this fact, it is used in pretty much everything we consume, from milk formulas to baking powder, processed cheese, pickles, and a number of other food products.
It is also found in cookware, beverage bottles, and other utensils that we use on an everyday basis. While scientists still do not know exactly why and how aluminum increases the risk of dementia, it is proven that heavy metals, in general, are known to damage brain tissue. Also, Alzheimer’s patients generally tend to have high levels of aluminum in their brains, which is yet another indication that the heavy metal could lead to cognitive impairment.
Of all the ingredients on this list, this is perhaps the most dangerous, because many people genuinely believe that aspartame is a healthy alternative to sugar. It is just as harmful, if not more, as refined sugar. When consumed, it is broken down into amino acids and methanol.Related: 11 Predictors of Alzheimer’s You Didn’t See Coming
Methanol, when consumed in high quantities, can lead to several neurological complications, including seizures, brain tumors, and dementia. It is highly advisable to avoid diet drinks, sweetened yogurt, cereals, and other such food substances that are known to contain aspartame.
This is an ingredient that you might not have heard of before, but are very likely to have consumed without knowing it. It is an artificial flavoring agent found in butter-flavored popcorn and pretzels, beer, and a number of baked goods. Research shows that diacetyl prevents your body from producing glyoxalase I, a protein which prevents amyloid buildup in your brain. As a result, amyloids tend to clump together and form plaques, which could lead to the onset of dementia.
MSG is used widely as a preservative as well as a flavoring agent in a number of processed foods. It can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s when consumed on a regular basis. Moreover, it is an excitotoxin, which makes the brain cells fire in an uncontrollable manner and intensifies the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other such diseases. So, as bad as it is for people in general, it could be even worse for those with pre-existing brain conditions.
Mercury, just like aluminum, is a heavy metal and is not meant to be consumed by the human body. Long-term consumption of mercury is known to damage brain tissues and produce pathological symptoms similar to that of Alzheimer’s.
Unfortunately, mercury contamination is a global problem today, and most of the seafood that we consume contains mercury – either in small quantities or large quantities, depending on the type of seafood you eat.
For instance, swordfish, shark, tilefish, albacore tuna, and king mackerel are known to contain large amounts of mercury. Shrimp, salmon, catfish, herring, sardines, mullet, freshwater trout, crab, anchovies, lobster, and canned white tuna are known to contain very low levels of mercury and are safe to consume.Related: How to Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk
Apart from seafood, mercury is also found in high fructose corn syrup, which is known to cause diabetes, inflammatory disorders, heart problems, cancer, and of course, dementia. So it is a prudent idea to avoid it completely.
You might be surprised to find tofu on this list, as it is marketed as a health food and an alternative to meat. A study published in Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders states that processed soy products like tofu can affect your memory over a period of time. You should switch to less processed soy foods like tempeh, which are much safer and healthier to consume.
Nitrites are commonly added to processed meats like hot dogs, sausages, ham, and bacon. They act as preservatives and prevent the growth of bacteria. They add a salty flavor to the meat and also give it a reddish or pinkish hue. They are also the primary reason why processed meats are incredibly harmful to your health.
Nitrites are known to affect your health on a cellular level. They alter your gene expression, damage your DNA, and make you vulnerable to a host of serious health problems, from diabetes to cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. So keep in mind while reaching for a pack of sandwich meat next time.
FluorideRelated: 10 Ways to Safeguard Yourself Against Parkinson’s Disease
This is something that is truly scary, because most of us drink fluoridated water every single day. While fluoride is known to prevent tooth decay, studies show that long-term consumption of the chemical could damage the brain, lower the IQ (particularly in children), and lead to brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. Experts say that the ingestion of sodium or aluminum fluoride could lead to the formation of amyloid deposits in the brain, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Preventing Alzheimer’s Through Dietary Modifications
As you can see, the food that you eat plays a vital role in the development and maintenance of your cognitive health. Avoiding food items that contain one or more of the aforementioned ingredients is the first step to preserving your cognitive abilities.
Apart from that, you should consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, and small amounts of lean meats. Your diet should consist of food items that are rich in antioxidant vitamins and essential fatty acids. It is one of the most effective ways to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and other such diseases.
It is a prudent idea to avoid or at the very least limit the consumption of prepackaged foods and eat home-cooked food instead. You should also avoid adding artificial sweeteners, flavoring agents, and coloring agents to your food. Instead, choose natural herbs, spices, and sugars, which are a much tastier and a healthier alternative.
Preventing Alzheimer’s Through Lifestyle Changes
Regular physical exercise can help you lower the risk of cognitive decline even when you age. You should avoid smoking and restrict your alcohol consumption as much as possible. Effective stress management is also necessary to avoid cognitive impairment. Yoga and meditation are quite effective in regulating your body’s stress response and can improve your cognitive abilities in the long run.Related: Safeguard Yourself Against Parkinson’s Disease With These 10 Warning Signs
On the whole, Alzheimer’s is a disease that can destroy your cognitive skills and affect the quality of your life severely. Therefore, choose the ingredients in your diet carefully and try to prevent this disease by all means rather than treating the symptoms after the onset of the illness.