Last Saturday, two eminent neurologists who specialise in Alzheimer’s told how their cutting-edge research has led them to believe simple lifestyle tweaks can help fend off the disease. Today and all this week, they share the personalised plan that could change your life . . .
There’s a fear that haunts us all: will we, or someone we love, one day develop Alzheimer’s disease?
Someone in Britain is diagnosed with dementia every three minutes — it’s now the leading cause of death in women and there’s no known cure. No wonder we are all becoming increasingly afraid.
But what if we told you that you could sharpen up your mental capacity straight away? And that you could significantly reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and even reverse any early symptoms of forgetfulness or confusion?
And what if, better still, we told you that after following our steps, you may not need to take a drug or worry about harmful side-effects? (Though if you are taking prescribed medication, you should continue to take it and follow your GP’s advice.)
Simple changes to a person’s lifestyle can help reduce a person chance of dementia. Studies by two eminent neurologists found the switch to a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of cognitive impairment by 28%
This might seem too good to be true, but working together as a husband and wife team, we have spent the past 20 years on a mission to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, and we are now convinced that 90 per cent of cases can be prevented.
For the remaining 10 per cent with a strong genetic risk, we believe the disease can be delayed by as much as 15 years.
The answer lies in making a few simple changes to your lifestyle.
For the past 15 years, we have been analysing decades of research into the connections between lifestyle and chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer, hoping to find insights into any risk factors that might also play a role in Alzheimer’s.
Buoyed by our findings, we have been carrying out further tests on patients who are at risk of developing and in the early stages of dementia. The results have been astonishing. Our findings have formed the basis of our life-changing new book, The Alzheimer’s Solution, which is being serialised all this week in the Daily Mail.
YOUR MOST DEADLY ENEMY
If we had to name a single food that plays the biggest role in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s, it would be sugar.
Studies link sugar with cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s. It is one of the most destructive compounds we can ingest, and because so much of our food is so highly processed, few of us realise just how much sugar we are eating.
One problem is the fact that sugar is nature’s ultimate stimulant. It provides a quick, efficient burst of energy, but the chemical cascade it triggers is damaging for the brain.
A high-sugar diet can lead to a very common condition called insulin resistance, which can in turn cause damage to the brain cells, and lead to a build-up of the sticky ‘amyloid plaques’ which doctors have found to be synonymous with Alzheimer’s.
But it is never too late. Our studies have shown that cutting back on sugar can have an almost instant impact on brain health. In fact, we have found, even small improvements to your diet will improve your brain function — FAST!
Simply personalise your Alzheimer’s Solution plan by picking out items from the ‘good foods’ list on the next page which you can add to your daily diet — and finding a few old favourites on the ‘not so good foods’ list that you might be prepared to live without.
At the heart of our message is the fact that brain health is influenced by five main lifestyle factors: nutrition, exercise, managing stress, restorative sleep and ‘brain training’. In Saturday’s paper, we introduced our programme with a comprehensive quiz to help you work out your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and show you how you can reduce that risk.
The key lies in taking responsibility for your health and creating a personalised plan of action that encompasses healthy changes in diet, exercise, stress levels, sleep and activities to keep your brain challenged.
The free magazine we gave away in Saturday’s Mail forms an important part of this programme’s personalisation process (if you missed it you can get a copy by calling 0808 272 0808).
Personalisation is the foundation of the plan because your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and cognitive decline is as individual as your fingerprint and life experience.
WHY WHAT YOU EAT IS SO IMPORTANT
Though the brain is very small and comprises only 2 per cent of the body by weight, it is incredibly greedy and uses up to 25 per cent of the body’s energy.
This means our brains are especially affected by the balance of goodness and toxins in the food we eat.
All the studies show that years of poor nutrition will damage your brain — in fact, many experts believe that Alzheimer’s is essentially a rubbish-disposal problem characterised by the brain’s inability to cope with what we feed it over a lifetime.
But no matter how many takeaways, kebabs, or burgers you have eaten in the past, and how many packets of crisps or tubs of ice cream you have quietly scoffed in the evenings, we are convinced the right changes to your diet now can have a swift impact on your brain health.
So many of our patients have been trying to find a solution to Alzheimer’s through vitamins; they spend a small fortune on brain-training games, join elaborate exercise programmes or consult with neurologists, when the solution is in their fridge.
Scientific studies have shown that certain foods raise the risk of heart disease, cancers and stroke and others reduce that risk. Crucially, we have found that what is good for the heart and kidneys also appears to be beneficial for the brain.
Through our clinical trials we can now offer a clear, science-based approach to brain-healthy eating that has helped our patients prevent and reverse the debilitating symptoms of cognitive decline.
It has become quite clear that our very typical Western diet of salty, sugary, fatty processed food puts us at risk of obesity and diabetes, both of which hugely increase our risk of dementia.
BEST WAY TO GET YOUR OMEGA-3
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain health, so you should try to eat more foods that contain them.
While oily fish is a good source, farmed fish or large species (such as tuna, halibut, mackerel, marlin and sea bass) can contain traces of mercury, which may be toxic to the brain.
We therefore recommend that you limit your consumption of fish to smaller or less contaminated varieties, such as anchovies, sardines and salmon.
You can also find omega-3 fats in walnuts, linseeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds, and green leafy vegetables such as kale, Brussels sprouts and spinach.
However, the short-chain omega-3 fats in nuts, seeds and greens are less easily absorbed by the body than the long-chain acids found in fish, so the best source of highly absorbable, toxin and pollutant-free omega-3s is marine algae — or seaweed.
Try crumbling sheets of nori (which are used to make sushi and are available in large supermarkets) into your soups and stews, or look out for samphire when it’s in season during the summer.
One trial showed that omega-3 fats improved cognitive function and maintained brain structure among healthy older adults.
You could also look for a high-quality algal supplement — try Healthspan Veg-Omega 3, which uses a natural algal source (£17.95 for 60 capsules, healthspan.co.uk).
Studies show obesity in mid-life increases dementia risk by as much as 40 per cent, and poor blood-sugar control in the elderly accounts for as much as 39 per cent of Alzheimer’s cases.
Again and again, wholefood, plant-based meals come up as the best dietary pattern for fighting chronic disease and protecting the brain against decline.
Our studies show a plant-based diet is enough to reduce your risk of cognitive impairment by 28 per cent.
We urge our dementia patients to add as many vegetables and fruit of all kinds as they can to every meal, and to try to cut back on all forms of meat.
You can try the delicious brain-boosting recipes you’ll find in these articles every day this week.
20 foods that will nourish your brain
Aim to boost your intake of the following . . .
Avocado: This is packed with the healthy fats that support brain structure and blood flow.
Beans: High in antioxidants, plant nutrients and plant protein, iron and other minerals, beans have been shown to increase longevity and reduce the risk of stroke (which shares risk factors with dementia). They lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels even many hours after you’ve eaten.
Blueberries: Studies show berries (especially blueberries and strawberries) can delay cognitive decline by two-and-a-half years.
Broccoli: Large studies show that eating cruciferous vegetables — which are rich in antioxidants and can reverse damage caused by normal ageing — slows age-related memory decline.
Coffee: The caffeine in coffee stimulates the production of a neuro-protective agent in the brain and coffee contains potent antioxidants.
Dark chocolate: In its purest form (dark unprocessed cocoa or cacao nibs), chocolate is a great source of plant nutrients which have been shown to relax arteries and help supply oxygen and nutrients to the brain.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This is an excellent source of healthy fatty acids and plant nutrients.
Linseeds: These are rich in plant-based omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to decrease inflammation and reduce cholesterol levels. They also contain chemical compounds called lignans that protect blood vessels from inflammatory damage.
Herbal Tea: Mint, lemon balm and hibiscus teas are anti-inflammatory.
Herbs: Fresh or dried coriander, dill, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, mint and parsley contain ten times more antioxidants than nuts and berries.
Leafy green vegetables: These are a rich source of antioxidants associated with brain health.
Nuts: These are the best source of healthy unsaturated fats, found by multiple studies to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Mushrooms: Fresh, dried or powdered mushrooms reduce inflammation in the blood vessels of the brain. Brown mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamin B12, which is linked to a lowered risk of Alzheimer’s.
Quinoa: A nutrient-rich complete protein source which also contains fibre, vitamin E and minerals such as zinc, phosphorus and selenium, which are essential building blocks for brain cells and their supporting structures.
Seeds: These are high in vitamin E and other brain-boosting minerals.
Spices: High in antioxidants and excellent at supporting the brain’s detox systems. Make cinnamon, cloves, marjoram, allspice, saffron, nutmeg and tarragon a regular part of your diet.
Your kitchen shouldn’t contain anything that isn’t 100 per cent wholemeal or ‘wholegrain’. This food is full of vitamins, minerals and fibre — which helps protect against stroke and dementia.
Avoid anything labelled ‘100 per cent wheat’, as it can contain refined wheat; ‘multigrain’, as it may be processed and refined; and ‘heart-healthy’, which might be low in saturated fats and sodium, but may also be processed.
Sweet Potatoes: These are packed with phytonutrients, fibre, vitamins A and C and minerals. They have anti-inflammatory effects plus the ability to regulate blood sugar.
Tea: This contains polyphenols (green tea catechin) which activate toxin-clearing enzymes.
Turmeric: An antioxidant, anti-inflammatory powerhouse that has been shown to reduce the beta-amyloid plaques which can build up in the brain to cause Alzheimer’s.
Wholegrains: These are packed with fibre, carbohydrates, protein and B vitamins. The starch in wholegrains such as oats, buckwheat, millet, or teff, sorghum and amaranth (available from large health food stores) feeds good bacteria in the gut and provides an excellent source of sustained energy for the brain.
…. and the ones you need to avoid
Aim to reduce or remove the following from your diet . . .
1 Processed foods: Crisps, biscuits, ready meals and white bread are high in salt, sugar and saturated fats that clog the brain’s arteries and directly damage brain tissue. Work to reduce foods with many ingredients, especially ones you can’t pronounce.
2 Processed meats: Bacon, sausages, pepperoni, salami and chorizo are often filled with preservatives, salt and saturated fats that promote inflammation and damage blood vessels in the brain. These should be the first meats to try to cut out of your diet.
3 Red meat: Beef and game tend to be high in inflammatory saturated fats. They may cause less inflammation than processed meats, but they still result in considerable damage to your brain.
4 Chicken: The main source of cholesterol in the standard Western diet. Chicken contains three times more fat than protein. One study showed that people who eat ONLY chicken and fish still have twice the risk of developing dementia as vegetarians.
WHY WOMEN SUFFER MOST
Women make up two-thirds of Alzheimer’s cases, with one in six women developing the condition after the age of 65 compared to just one in 11 men.
In fact, women in their 60s are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as they are to develop breast cancer.
One reason for this is the fact that women tend to live longer than men (making them more likely to develop the disease).
Hormonal changes during the menopause affect the brain which could also accelerate cognitive decline.
The increased risk for women could be linked to the finding that having multiple children appears to put you at greater risk for stroke later in life.
There is a clear relationship between your vulnerability to stroke and vulnerability to cognitive decline.
Some researchers even suggest that women are at risk because in the past they had less access to intellectually challenging jobs and higher education, both of which are protective factors against Alzheimer’s.
5 Butter and margarine: High in saturated and trans fats that clog arteries and shrink the brain.
6 Fried food and fast food: High in trans fats that reduce brain volume contributing to cognitive decline. Also avoid tropical oils (such as coconut oil and palm oil) which are high in saturated fats and replace with extra- virgin olive oil, safflower or sunflower oil.
7 Cheese: High in saturated fat which damages blood vessels in the brain. You should also try to reduce your consumption of cow’s milk, creams, yoghurts, eggs (one egg carries more than your daily limit of cholesterol), butter and buttery spreads, mayonnaise (full fat or low fat) and any other dairy-based products. Replace these with nut/soya milk and nut cheeses or dairy- and egg- free mayonnaise instead.
8 Pastries and sweets: These are high in sugar which causes inflammation and brain burnout. Get rid of sweets; sugary syrups; fruit juices; ice cream and desserts; any cereal with more than 6 g of sugar per serving; biscuits, cakes and cereal bars. You can sweeten things more healthily with fruit, dates, or xylitol and stevia — see our delicious dessert recipes coming up in Thursday’s paper for inspiration.
9 Sugary drinks: The main source of sugar in the Western diet which causes inflammation and neuronal damage.
10 Excessive alcohol: A neurotoxin that directly damages brain cells and not to be consumed in large quantities or on a regular basis. Stick to a maximum of two glasses of wine per week.
Training your brain
Every day this week, we’ll be giving you fun brain games to keep you sharp…
You can build focus by doing calculations in your head. It’s not about the complexity of the maths but your ability to stay focused. Try subtracting 3s from 100 down to single digits, for example 97, 94, 91 etc. Then try subtracting 7s. When this becomes easy, start with 1,000 instead.
Counting the ‘ands’
Read a long passage in a novel while trying to recall the number of ‘ands’. This exercise challenges concentration because you’re forced to pay attention while keeping track of another element. You should still be able to understand the content. Now try the same passage, but counting the ‘its’.
The dark room
Enter a quiet room (preferably one you’ve never been in, or one you’re not familiar with), sit down, close your eyes and try to recall as many features of the room as possible. Use the dictation feature on a phone or tablet to record your thoughts. See if you can remember more visual features with practice.
Delicious brain-boosting recipes
● 500g strong
● 1 tsp salt
● 7g/1 sachet of dried yeast
● 2 tbsp olive oil
● 300 ml warm water
For the tomato sauce:
● A little olive oil
● 680 g jar of tomato passata
● 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
● Salt & pepper
Alzheimer’s busting toppings:
● 2 avocadoes
● 150 g spinach, washed
● 150 g mushrooms sliced
● 3 tbsp sunflower seeds
● Drizzle of olive oil
● Dairy-free cheese or a little
● Mozzarella (optional)
Place the salt and wholemeal flour in a bowl. In a separate bowl or jug, combine olive oil, warm water and yeast and leave for a couple of minutes.
Mix the water, oil and yeast mixture with the flour and salt until it comes together to form a smooth dough.
Knead the dough for around 10 mins, until it is smooth and springy — if you dent it with your fingertip it should spring back to shape.
Place back in the bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm room for around an hour until the dough has doubled in size (it also freezes well after proving!)
Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly so that it doesn’t burn.
Add the passata and season well with salt and pepper. Let this simmer over a low heat for 10-15 minutes. Leave to cool.
When you’re ready to make the pizzas:
Heat the oven to 200c/180c fan/gas 6. Remove the dough from the bowl and cut into 4 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface roll each piece of dough out as thinly as possible without tearing.
Place the pizza base on a large tray lined with baking paper. Spoon a little tomato sauce over base and spread it evenly with the back of a spoon. Add toppings (apart from avocado) and bake for 10-15 minutes until crisp and golden brown.
Scatter over avocado and garnish with rocket leaves to serve.
Super seed pesto
● 1 large bunch of basil
● 1 clove of garlic
● 60 g sunflower seeds, toasted
● 60 g pumpkin seeds, toasted
● 35 g Parmesan, grated
● 200 ml extra-virgin olive oil
● Juice of ½ a lemon
● Salt & pepper
Blitz all of the ingredients in a food processor. Check the seasoning and add more salt, pepper or lemon juice to taste.
Delicious stirred through pasta or used to top fish fillets or chicken before baking in the oven.
Salmon burgers with sweet potato
For the salmon burgers:
● 4 salmon fillets
● 1 bunch of spring onions, roughly chopped
● 1 small bunch of herbs of your choice (such as dill or flat leaf parsley)
● Zest & juice of 1 lemon
● Salt & pepper
● 1 tbsp olive oil
For the fries:
● 2 large sweet potatoes (or 4 small) washed and cut into thin wedges.
● Pinch of salt
● 2 heaped tsp corn flour
● 2 tbsp olive oil
Place the sweet potato wedges in a large bowl of cold water for an hour or more. This draws out some of the starch to make a crispier chip.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan/gas 6. Drain the chips and pat dry.
Place the chips in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix well so each piece of potato is coated.
Lay on a baking tray (making sure you don’t overcrowd) and bake for 15 minutes, before turning the chips and baking for a further 15-20 minutes.
For the salmon burgers, place salmon fillets, spring onions, herbs and lemon into a food processor and pulse until roughly broken up (don’t break it down to a complete paste).
Shape the mixture into four burgers. Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry for 5 minutes on each side. Alternatively, bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until cooked through.
Adapted by LOUISE ATKINSON from The Alzheimer’s Solution: A Revolutionary Guide To How You Can Prevent
And Reverse Memory Loss by Dr Dean Sherzai and Dr Ayesha Sherzai, published by Simon & Schuster