Let’s start with some good news: it has been shown that the chances of developing dementia they decrease if a healthy diet and lifestyle are followed in mid-life. Obviously, for those who start following a healthy lifestyle from an early age, the chances of success in this endeavor are even greater, it seems useful to underline this.
Dementia it is a syndrome that affects memory, thinking skills, behavior and the ability to carry out all the normal daily activities of life. It is usually a chronic or progressive syndrome, caused by a series of dysfunctions in the brain. Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and frontotemporal dementia are the most common forms of dementia. The Alzheimer’s disease is caused by structural changes in the brain that cause cells to die, while vascular dementia depends on a lower blood supply. Dementia is not part of a normal aging of the person, but a real pathological and degenerative alteration. As such, it is not a sealed and inevitable fate or something genetically pre-established, but a condition that in most cases can be avoided with appropriate behaviors and precautions.
Alzheimer’s disease and the brain
Billions of neurons transmit information throughout the brain, and from the brain to the entire body, in a bidirectional loop that creates a network of chemical signals throughout the body. Alzheimer’s interferes with communication and repair processes and causes more than normal neuronal loss. In the healthy brain networks of neurons communicate across electrical and chemical signals (neurotransmitters), which pass through junctions called synapses, which continuously repair themselves from the damage they suffer due to the normal activity of brain cells (neurons), and clean themselves from cellular debris and toxins produced daily due to the activity of brain cells.
In the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient, however, as neurons become damaged and die, communication between networks is disrupted and brain areas shrink. The first function to be affected is the memorythen the languageil reasoningand finally the behavior. In Alzheimer’s disease, an abnormal amount of this normally harmless waste collects between neurons in the brain, forming plaques of beta-amyloid protein. Supportive cells in the brain, called microglia and astrocytes, which clear debris in the healthy brain, cause inflammation by damaging neurons in the case of Alzheimer’s. The Tau protein, which normally supports the internal structure of neurons, in Alzheimer’s disease clumps and grows in quantity, preventing neurons from sending electrical and chemical signals.
Dementia and diet
Some research has found a positive association between mental clarity and nutrition. In fact, it seems quite certain that following a very balanced diet without excess sugar, salt, fat, and rich in vegetables and fruit, has a certain influence in preventing not only dementias but also other types of widespread and deadly pathologies such as cardiovascular diseases (heart attack, stroke), diabetes, tumors. Furthermore, there is a very close link between those suffering from diabetes and the development of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, and this is already certain and established in scientific studies. We can deduce that, assume refined carbohydrates instead of wholemeal ones, and making use of added sugars contained in many industrial products (typical those of breakfast such as biscuits, croissants, cereals in a cup, etc.) increases both the risk of diabetes and dementia. This is because both refined carbohydrates and sugars are in fact absorbed very quickly in the intestine and trigger a major insulin response of integral carbohydrates or of the more complex ones contained in foods such as legumes. People affected by Type 2 diabetes they are also more at risk of developing a form of dementia, probably due to excess insulin which causes a protein called beta-amyloid to accumulate more rapidly in the brain.
Scholars then identified a type of diet or food model capable of having aspecific efficacy against neurodegenerative diseases of the brainthis diet is known as the MIND dietan acronym that stands for Mediterranean Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. And it was designed by combining elements of two other diets to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Specifically, this diet proposes the consumption of green leafy vegetables (such as black cabbage, savoy cabbage and others) and berries for their antioxidant propertieswhich reduce oxidative stress and the degeneration of brain cells (neurons).
Other studies on Alzheimer’s and dementias indicate that higher consumption of fat omega-3 contained in fatty fish reduces the likelihood of developing dementia.
Finally, another aspect that scholars believe is important to manage in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases, and the food style that can keep it under control, concerns the production of substances that are formed in the blood called AGE (Protein glycation end products, English acronym for Advanced Glycation End products). A high level of these AGEs is associated with inflammatory states and oxidative stress that precede many chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’sand perhaps contribute to forming clusters of in the brain Protein Value, a protein which, if in excess, causes the loss of functionality and the death of neurons. AGEs are formed in the blood when glucose combines with proteins and fats (glucose normally has to travel freely in the blood, not binding to circulating proteins and fats). This occurs especially if foods cooked at high temperatures or ready-to-eat foods that have been subjected to high temperatures in their production processes are consumed, such as snacks, biscuits and baked goods such as croissants, biscuits and the like. With regard to the foods we prepare at home and the cooking methods we use, take into account the following table and the corresponding AGE values.
[di Gianpaolo Usai]