Did you know that every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease? Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the country. While there is no cure yet for the disease, we do know what you eat matters and that certain foods can raise the risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s important to know what these foods are and limit or avoid them completely. Luckily, we also know some foods that can help reduce your risk of brain disease. Make sure to add plenty of these foods to help keep your brain and body strong.
Foods That Raise Your Alzheimer’s Risk:
While I’m a fan of red meat, too much of a good thing might increase your chances of Alzheimer’s. (And, of course, eating low-quality red meat is a big no-no.) Red meat is an iron-rich food. And though your body needs enough iron to avoid anemia, chronic fatigue and muscle weakness, too much iron can actually speed up damage created from too many free radicals unleashed in our bodies. As the iron builds up in the brain, it does so in an area known as “gray matter,” a part of the brain that shows one of the first signs of degeneration as we age. Too much iron in that area seems to accelerate the process even more.
You don’t have to say goodbye to hamburgers and steaks entirely. Instead, be mindful of how much red meat you’re eating each week and choose the best quality, grass-fed beef that is available.
Refined Carbohydrates & Sugars
If you need another reason to stay away from starchy pasta and breads, here’s one: Diets high in carbohydrates and sugar can raise your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
A 2012 study found that people 70 years or older who ate a diet heavy in carbohydrates (i.e. refined sugar) were almost four times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than their healthier eating counterparts. That spike in Alzheimer’s is far beyond the normal age-related issues you’d expect to see in regards to memory and thinking. Today, we know sugar’s role goes far beyond heart disease and extra pounds and greatly impacts the brain, too.
The more our body ignores insulin, the more our pancreas produces. These high levels of insulin might actually damage blood vessels in the brain, leading to issues with memory. In fact, in Alzheimer’s patients, parts of the brain become resistant to insulin—and while researchers aren’t sure why, there seems to be a link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
No, not old foods! “AGEs” stands for advanced glycation end products, or chemicals that are found both naturally in our bodies and in some foods. Foods high in AGEs include red meat, cheese, processed foods and animal fat. Scientists previously linked foods high in AGEs to diabetes and poor cardiovascular health. Now it seems they might play a role in a declining brain as well.
It’s important to note that all foods contain some level of AGEs. But try to stay away from those with the highest amounts. And because AGE production actually increases with heat, the way you cook your meat matters when it comes to avoiding AGEs and how foods raise your Alzheimer’s risk.
Grilling and frying meats speeds up AGE production much more than other methods of cooking. For example, a serving of raw chicken has an AGE level of 800; fried chicken has a level of 8,000. Skip the deep fryer and high-heat grill and opt instead for stewing, poaching, braising or using a grill pan on the stove.
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