A dash of coconut oil, two sardines, five berries and plenty of kale; blend thoroughly and drink up. You’re halfway to preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s, right?
Well, not quite. Few bona fide brain experts would endorse that kind of drink as fool-proof prevention. But all the “brain food” buzz in recent years isn’t totally off-base, either, according to Paul D. Nussbaum, senior brain health advisor to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.
“I try to stay away from the word ‘prevention’ and the word ‘cure,’ but we do have the ability to promote the health of our brains and the opportunity to build brain resilience,” said Nussbaum, who is also president of the Brain Health Center in Wexford, Pa.
To help understand why food can help, Nussbaum advises patients to hold up an arm and picture it as a nerve track in your brain, with information passing quickly up and down the track. Now imagine that your shirt sleeve is insulation — or “good fat” that helps pad the nerve track and facilitate the speedy transmission of electrical signals.
If it doesn’t have proper insulation, these signals will slow down, Nussbaum said. “So we have to build that up by eating proper fats like walnuts, green leafy vegetables and fish. These foods can help the brain cells be more permeable and help facilitate rapid and efficient information processing,” he said.
So while nutrition alone may not be your ticket to dementia-free old age, it’s an essential part of building up a natural defense. “It doesn’t prevent a condition like Alzheimer’s, but it can delay its onset,” Nussbaum said.
On Monday’s PBS NewsHour broadcast, Jeffrey Brown examines a revival in research aimed at preventing Alzheimer’s — a trend that comes on the heels of decades of frustratingly slow drug trials to treat the disease. Researchers hope this new emphasis on prevention could be a “tipping point” for the debilitating disease. Tune in for the full report.
In the meantime, Nussbaum and Rita M. Singer, a registered dietitian with the Brain Health Center, offer 10 tips for eating and drinking your way to a better brain.