By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder

What Does Diet Have To Do With Dementia?


It’s hard to believe we are approaching the six-year anniversary of the death of Robin Williams. He suffered from a form of dementia, which his wife believes led to his suicide.

Dementia is not a specific disease but is rather a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities,” reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The ability to breathe and swallow can eventually be impacted by dementia, because the brain plays a part in controlling these actions, and eventually lead to death. Think of dementia as “fatal brain failure.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. According to the National Institute on Aging, experts suggest that more than 5.5 million Americans, the majority being 65 or older, may have dementia caused by Alzheimer’s. 

The Alzheimer's Foundation reports that brain changes that cause Alzheimer’s may begin 20 years or more before symptoms show.

It has been known for quite some time that there is a strong association between diet and cognitive health. For instance, a pro-inflammatory diet rich in processed, nutrient-void foods may contribute to cognitive decline, and an anti-inflammatory diet rich in whole, nutrient-rich foods may delay cognitive decline.

How you pair foods may be important.

And now, a recent study suggests that it’s not just about what you are eating but how you are pairing certain foods together. 

The study looked at ‘food networks’ and found that people whose diets consisted mostly of highly processed meats, starchy foods like potatoes, and snacks like cookies and cakes, were more likely to have dementia years later than people who ate a wider variety of healthy foods,” according to this report discussing the study.

The study participants included 209 people (average age 78) who had dementia and 418 people (matched for age, sex and educational level) who did not have dementia. Participants were instructed to complete food questionnaires detailing foods they ate (and how frequently they ate these foods) from five years before. They also underwent medical check-ups every two to three years.

“Researchers used the data from the food questionnaire to compare what foods were often eaten together by the patients with and without dementia,” according to the study report.

“Researchers found while there were few differences in the amount of individual foods that people ate, overall food groups or networks differed substantially between people who had dementia and those who did not have dementia.”

Processed meats were a popular food amongst people with dementia. But what was especially noteworthy is that the study exhibited, “People who developed dementia were more likely to combine highly processed meats such as sausages, cured meats and patés with starchy foods like potatoes, alcohol, and snacks like cookies and cakes. This may suggest that frequency with which processed meat is combined with other unhealthy foods, rather than average quantity, may be important for dementia risk,” said one of the authors on the study.

Those who did not have dementia had a more diverse diet rich in fruits and vegetables, seafood, poultry or meats.

Once again, we see evidence which suggests that healthy food may be preventative when it comes to serious illness. And prevention is always better than cure. There is not always an opportunity for cure and there is currently no cure for dementia. 

Be proactive!

Some cognitive decline is natural with aging, but dementia may not be an inevitable part of getting older.

There is a lot you can do to help prevent dementia (and the younger you start, the better):

We don’t want to just live long lives. We want to live long,healthy,  happy and active lives. And if we can keep dementia at bay, we may be able to achieve this.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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