Diet to prevent dementia

While there is currently no sure way to prevent dementia, you can manage some of the risk factors. Some, such as age and genetics, are out of your control. However, by managing lifestyle factors such as diet and nutrition you may be able to reduce your chances of developing the disease. Your diet also affects your risk of developing heart disease and stroke, both of which are dementia risk factors.

The following are associated with a reduced risk of developing dementia:

Higher intake of omega-3 fats
Your body can’t produce omega-3, meaning it must be obtained from your diet. Some research has suggested that omega-3 may reduce inflammation in the brain, protect blood vessels and plays an important role in maintaining nerve cells and brain development.

To incorporate omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, eat foods such as eggs, walnuts, flaxseed oil and oily fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna.

Higher intake of antioxidants
Antioxidants help to remove free radicals from the body, which may otherwise lead to brain cell death. Antioxidants are found in deeply or brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, whole grains, green tea, vegetable oils, red wine and dark chocolate.

Higher intake of B group vitamins
Vitamin B is important in cell metabolism, so deficiencies can cause memory loss and confusion. Research has suggested that increased dementia risk is linked to lower levels of folate (vitamin B9) and B12. Vitamin B12 is essential to healthy brain and nerve function and is found in foods such as meat, shellfish, dairy, fortified cereals, tempeh and other fermented foods. Folate can be found in legumes, spinach, sunflower seeds, bananas, oranges, pumpkin, avocados, strawberries, rockmelon, parsnips and corn.

Higher intake of vegetables and fruits
People who eat more fruit and vegetables have a lower risk of developing dementia, according to Foods such as blueberries, legumes, tomatoes and other foods found in the Mediterranean diet have been linked to reduced dementia risk. 

Lower intake of saturated and trans fats
People who consume more saturated and trans fats in their diets are more likely to develop dementia. These fats reduce the level of ‘good’ cholesterol and increase the level of ‘bad’ cholesterol. Saturated fats are found in butter, full-fat dairy products, chocolate, meat, palm and coconut oils. Trans fats are found in many fried snacks, fast food and commercially baked biscuits and cakes. Avoid or limit your intake of these foods to reduce your risk of dementia.

Higher intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
Not all fats are bad, in fact monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are actually good for you. Foods high in these ‘good’ fats include avocados, nuts, seeds, fish and olive oil. 

Moderate consumption of alcohol
Alcohol increases brain blood flow, reduces inflammation, contains antioxidants and benefits the cardiovascular system. When consumed in moderation, alcohol has been linked to a reduced risk of dementia. However, there is insufficient evidence for Dementia Australia to recommend alcohol to non-drinkers.

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Written by Liv Gardiner


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