Currently, there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, a debilitating illness that impacts 5.4 million Americans–in fact, it’s the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. It’s been frustrating researchers who can’t even seem to find a drug that’s effective at eliminating its symptoms. A new $100 million study is setting out to make Alzheimer’s prevention its main goal, but could a healthy diet be an even simpler cure?
Clinical drugs intended to prevent Alzheimer’s disease don’t work because they are often given too late, after damage to the brain has already been done. Scientists have found that certain genes tell us that patients will almost certainly get the disease, however. In the latest study, researchers are looking at a huge extended family in Medellín, Columbia. One-third of the family has a gene mutation that causes them to get early onset Alzheimer’s by age 50.
Researchers will give family members with the gene mutation an experimental drug, Crenezumab, that targets the build up of the toxic amyloid protein in the brain–thought to be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Crenezumab, stops the growth of the protein, so by giving the drug early, scientists hope that participants won’t get the disease. And if they still get the disease, scientists will know that amyloid protein isn’t the cause.
Pillars of Alzheimer’s Prevention
But the Columbia study isn’t the only research hoping to prevent Alzheimer’s by identifying a cause. Other research ties Alzheimer’s to heart disease, suggesting that you can reduce your risk of the disease by reducing your cholesterol, excess weight, and high blood pressure. “We have to realize that the era of the magic bullet — drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease — is over. We need to take an integrative or holistic approach, like they do for heart disease. What works for the heart, works for the head,” says Dr. Khalsa in Alzheimer’s Prevention magazine.
According to Alzheimer’s Prevention, there are four pillars of prevention, one of which is diet. An Alzheimer’s prevention diet includes 20 percent calories from good fats like olive, avocado, and flax oil and 40 percent from lean protein like fish and tofu. The other 40 percent should come from complex carbohydrates like organic vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Supplements with antioxidant amp like blueberries, spinach, and seaweed should also play a role in your diet. The other three pillars include stress management, exercise, and taking doctor-prescribed medications.