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How does nutrition affect dementia?

Asked by Adrienne Jones, Lansing, Michigan

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How can poor nutrition and vitamin deficiency affect your health, as far as dementia?

Expert Bio Picture

Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist

Expert Answer:

Hi Adrienne -- This is an important question as nutrition plays an important role in dementia prevention. Here are a few healthy brain nutrition tips.

Omega 3 fatty acids. Making sure that you get plenty of omega 3 fatty acids found in fish is one of the most important things you can do for brain health. Fish consumption is associated with significantly less decline of mental function and lower risk of Alzheimer's disease. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a type of omega 3 found in fatty fish like salmon, is particularly important. Low levels of DHA in the blood have been associated with worsening mental function. Aim for 2-3 four ounce servings of fish per week, and try make at least one of those servings salmon. If you hate fish, take a fish oil capsule or try out some of the new foods fortified with DHA including soy milk, yogurt and nutrition bars.

Eat your vegetables. Research shows that eating approximately 3 servings per day of vegetables is associated with 40% less mental function decline. Eating vegetables with a little healthy fat like olive oil or nuts is even better. Fat helps with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, of which vitamin E may be particularly important for brain health. Dark green leafy vegetables like kale, romaine lettuce and spinach, which are good sources of vitamin E, seem to be particularly important in protecting your brain.

Lose weight. Being overweight, especially if you tend to carry your weight around the middle or have borderline high blood sugar or Diabetes, significantly increases your risk of decreased mental function. This may be due to several different factors including damage to small blood vessels in the brain or the role of excess insulin (which is associated with fat around the middle and diabetes). Research shows that being overweight or obese in middle age can double your risk of dementia.

And don't forget to stay physically and mentally active which is also important for maintaining brain function and decreasing your risk of dementia.

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