Colorful diet offers hope for preventing cognitive decline, posted on Healio Endocrine Today, 6 December, 2017 by Daniel Nadeau, MD and Harsimran Singh, PhD. While I am not trying to keep harping on the benefits of a plant-based diet, how much more evidence do you really need before you make changes?
Daniel A. Nadeau, MD, and Harsimran Singh, PhD
Epidemics of diabetes and dementia continue to grow, with diabetes playing an increasing role in cognitive decline, brain atrophy and risk for vascular dementia. Treatment of diabetes should include efforts at brain protection, given that cognitive loss so adversely affects critically needed self-care capability.
Mechanisms for acceleration of cognitive decline in diabetes include decreased neurogenesis within the hippocampus, leading to brain atrophy, disintegration of the blood-brain barrier, hyperglycemia with advanced glycation end products, oxidative stress and inflammation. Insulin resistance and vascular dysfunction also play key roles in development of dementia and amyloid pathology. Very technical but hang in there! Although amyloid is thought by some to be central to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, a vaccine that dramatically reduced amyloid has been unsuccessful in treating the condition, hence supporting the hypothesis that the abnormal proteins may be the brain’s protective mechanism for fending off the damage done by free radical oxidation.
Role of nutrition therapy
Lifestyle intervention remains a key component in holding back the tide of diabetes and dementia. New research suggests that certain food choices may be especially helpful for those at risk — not just by preventing diabetes, but also by supporting optimal brain function while aging. Emerging evidence supports nutritional interventions, specifically with plant-based foods that protect against age-related decline. Such nutritional interventions can protect behavioral function from age-related decline.
An ideal “brain-protection diet” should include one to two cups of fresh or frozen berries, with blueberries being a fruit of choice, possibly as a smoothie. A cup of berries has only 20 g carbohydrate. A blend of berries appears to be synergistic in benefits. It should also include a large multicolored salad every day and tomatoes, which can be served fresh or cooked because lycopene, the main antioxidant in tomatoes, is heat stable.
Other foods most protective against cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease include salad dressing, nuts, fish, cruciferous vegetable, fruits, and dark and green leafy vegetables. Foods that present higher risks for development of Alzheimer’s disease include high-fat dairy, red meat, organ meat and butter, supporting the hypothesis that foods with saturated fat increase risk and plant-based foods may be a key to the prevention of cognitive decline. Healthy proteins, such as beans and legumes, nuts and fish, should be emphasized.
For people with diabetes, there sometimes is a move to a low or very low carbohydrate diet, often with more meat and dairy. The risk of such an approach is the unfortunate avoidance of many plant-based foods, which are naturally low in calories and high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Is it worth it to you to truly understand the importance of including such foods in your daily diet? Do you have questions? PLEASE ASK THEM! Do you have concerns or frustrations? PLEASE SHARE THEM!
Succeeding with Diabetes on a Vegan Diet is a great interview by Kerri Sparling on ASweetLife.org about LeeAnn Thill, a long time T1 and an art therapist, licensed counselor, and artist, in Philadelphia. She’s a doctoral candidate whose dissertation research is exploring how veganism empowers women with a history of disturbed eating behaviors. And for many years, she offered Diabetes Art Day (I’ve been trying to get her to start it up again, a GREAT creative outlet involving our lives with T1).
The path to veganism was a slow process for Lee Ann, who followed what she called a “half hearted reducitarian [a commitment to eating less meat] lifestyle for several years, partly motivated by health concerns, and partly motivated by an emerging awareness that there was something questionable about meat. Inspired in 2013 by the documentary VEGUCATED, Lee Ann set her sights on transitioning to a vegan diet. “At first, I set a goal to eat at least one vegan meal a day. It was a fun challenge for me to experiment with new recipes and foods. Once I started to change the types of food I was buying, and had some “go-to” recipes, it became easier to increase the frequency of vegan meals. I really enjoyed that process, felt accomplished, and felt physically and emotionally better. By January 2014, I was eating all vegan at home, and maybe having one or two vegetarian meals or snacks away from home, so deciding to be vegan at that point, wasn’t a big change.”
Some people with diabetes are frustrated by the higher carbs found in vegan/vegetarian recipes, and are often deterred from experimenting with vegan foods due to the carb load. But Lee Ann has found that portion sizes and substitutions make a huge difference in managing those concerns. To follow more of Lee Ann’s vegan journey with diabetes, you can find her on Twitter at @T1Vegan
Read more: Succeeding with Diabetes on a Vegan Diet
My journey on my path to eating a plant-based diet is fairly similar … eating less meat, seeing some mind-altering documentaries about our food sources … and transitioning over time. It really has not been all that difficult and now, during my first holiday season without meat, I seem to be doing great and feeling well and happy.
Again, just food for thought and transition and a sense of mastery and self-empowerment, over my eating behavior and my health issues.
I’d be VERY interested in your thoughts and feedback … and wishing you all a joyful holiday!