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The Villages
Tuesday, January 31, 2023

What you eat could help prevent dementia

Dr. Gabe Mirkin

About 22 percent of North Americans ages 85-89 and 33 percent of those over 90 suffer some degree of dementia (JAMA Neurol, 2022;79(12):1242-1249).

A study from the Chicago Health and Aging Project, which followed 2449 men and women over age 65, suggests that there is a lot that you can do to help protect yourself from dementia (BMJ Neurology, April 13, 2022;377:e068390). The healthful lifestyle factors tracked in this study included diet, physical activity, cognitive activity, not smoking, and avoiding or limiting alcohol (<15g/day for women, <30g/day for men). Higher lifestyle scores were associated with a longer life expectancy, and the higher-scoring participants lived a larger proportion of their remaining years without dementia.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota estimate that “The following modifiable risk factors account for about 40 percent of worldwide dementia, which thus could theoretically be prevented or delayed” (JAMA Netw Open, 2022 Jul 1;5(7):e2219672):
• Lack of physical activity
• Unhealthful diet
• Hypertension
• Smoking
• Heavy drinking
• Hearing impairment
• Obesity
• Depression
• Diabetes
• Low social contact
• Traumatic brain injury
• Air pollution

Anti-Inflammatory Diet to Help Prevent Dementia
Researchers have not proven that diet changes can help to prevent or treat dementia, but strong data associate a pro-inflammatory diet with increased risk for dementia (Neurology, Nov 10, 2021;10.1212). The authors divided 1059 non-demented people, average age 73, into three groups based on high, medium and low inflammatory diet scores. This study is especially important because it analyzed the entire diets and classified 45 different groups of foods into:
• pro-inflammatory foods that raise blood markers of inflammation,
and
• anti-inflammatory foods that lower these same blood markers.
At the end of the three-year study period, 62 of the participants had become demented. Those with the worst inflammatory diet scores were 3.5 times more likely to become demented than those with the best scores.

Each week for three years, the people with the best anti-inflammatory scores had eaten an average of:
• 20 servings of fruit
• 19 servings of vegetables
• 4 servings of beans or other legumes

Those with the worst scores had eaten an average of:
• 9 servings of fruit
• 10 servings of vegetables
• 2 servings of legumes

When Inflammation Causes Problems
You have germs in your body when you are born (Front Microbiol, June 4, 2019), and soon after birth, bacteria increase everywhere on your skin surface, in your respiratory tract and in your entire digestive tract. Most of these germs are good for you and help in many different ways. They help you to digest and absorb nutrients from the food that you eat, and to eliminate waste products. They colonize the linings of your respiratory tract and intestines to help keep harmful germs from growing there.

Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a Villager. Learn more at www.drmirkin.com

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