Alzheimer’s Disease, metabolic disorders and the role of diet

Accumulating evidence for the role of metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity and hypertension in increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, is reviewed in a new paper published this month in the Archives of Neurology.

alzheimersbrain

In the same journal, compelling evidence is presented that higher pre-diagnosis total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and diabetes are associated with faster cognitive decline in patients with incident Alzheimer’s disease.

A cohort of 156 patients with incident Alzheimer’s Disease (mean age 83 years) were followed for up to 10 years.  Changes in a composite score of cognitive ability were monitored from diagnosis onwards.

“These findings indicate that controlling vascular conditions may be one way to delay the course of Alzheimer’s, which would be a major development in the treatment of this devastating disease as currently there are few treatments available to slow its progression,”

said Yaakov Stern, Ph.D., a professor at the Taub Institute for the Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain and director of the Cognitive Neuroscience Division of the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center at Columbia University Medical Center, and senior author of the paper.

“Preventing heart disease, stroke and diabetes – or making sure these conditions are well managed in patients diagnosed with them – can potentially slow the disease progression of Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Stern.

Diets high in fruit, vegetables, fibre and unsaturated fats, and low in sugar, salt and saturated fat are known to reduce the risk of a range of chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.  This means eating more plant-based foods and less processed and animal-based foods.

wholegrainsandveg

Stabilising blood sugar is crucial.  This may be done by eating a diet with a low glycaemic load, that is, one that includes moderate quantities of complex carbohydrates which release glucose slowly into the bloodstream.  Whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, millet and buckwheat are valuable for helping to ensure smooth regulation of blood sugar.  In contrast, highly refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, white pasta and table sugar, create a roller-coaster of blood sugar highs and lows, which if left unchecked, can ultimately give rise to insulin resistance and eventually to diabetes.  Potatoes release sugar into the bloodstream almost as fast as table sugar and thus should be eaten sparingly, unless you are lean and exercise regularly.  Consuming protein with carbohydrates at every meal has also been found to help regulation of blood sugar.

Increasing the quantity of vegetables and fruit in the diet is also vital.  Blood sugar levels are easier to maintain if vegetables are emphasized more than fruit, as some fruit contains a lot of sugar.  A minimum of 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day is recommended.  For easy tips for increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in your diet please click here.

Unsaturated fats found in plant oils, such as olive oil and the oils of nuts and seeds, and in oily fish, are beneficial for preventing heart disease and other vascular health conditions.  For practical suggestions for ways to incorporate more healthy unsaturated fats in your diet please click here.

For information and practical tuition in how to put all these recommendations together to create fabulous food that protects you from diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s Disease, please come to a Cooking for Health course, run by nutrition expert, Dr Jane Philpott.

Fruit and vegetable consumption low across the world

eating-burger_280_528732a1A new study to be published in the May edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine paints a depressing picture of the dietary habits of modern man across the globe.

National Diet and Nutrition Surveys in the UK have found that less than 15 per cent of the population eats the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day; a similar situation exists in the USA.  It appears that the same is also true in developing countries, where traditional diets are threatened by the introduction of processed food.

A survey of over 200,000 people in developing countries showed that overall 77.6 per cent of men and 78.4 per cent of women consumed less than the suggested five daily servings of produce. 

“Low fruit and vegetable consumption is a risk factor for overweight and obesity, and adequate consumption decreases risk for developing several chronic diseases,” said lead author Spencer Moore. “The release of the 2002-2003 World Health Survey data provided a unique opportunity to examine global differences in low fruit and vegetable consumption in a way that has until now simply not been possible.”

There were wide variations among nations, ranging from 37 percent of men in Ghana who did not meet that standard – to 99 percent of Pakistani men. The researchers saw similar findings in women with the same two countries at the high and low ends of the spectrum.

The prevalence of low fruit and vegetable intake increased with age and decreased with income. This contrasts with findings from the UK where, on average, older people consume more fruit and vegetables than younger people.

family-eating-banana1

Epidemiological studies show that societies consuming high quantities of fruit, vegetables and whole grains are at lower risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers than those that consume low quantities.  Such societies are often, but not exclusively, in less economically developed parts of the world.  As GDP per capita increases, countries opt for eating more meat, more processed food and less fruit, vegetables and whole grains.  This dietary shift leads to an epidemiological shift – away from infectious diseases and other diseases associated with lack of food, towards chronic noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke and cancer. 

The decline in consumption of fruit and vegetables in developing countries is disturbing as it is likely to give rise to an increase in the incidence of chronic diseases, leading to huge burdens on the healthcare systems of those countries, which may be ill-equipped to cope.

For information and practical tuition in how to create mouth-watering dishes with locally produced fruit and vegetables, come along to Cooking for Health courses held throughout the year in Somerset, UK.

If you are a caterer, or a professional responsible for encouraging healthier catering practices in your community, you will benefit from participating in a two-day training course on Healthier Catering.   By the end of the course, participants will: 

  • Understand the basic principles of nutrition
  • Be aware of the importance of food in the maintenance of health and well-being
  • Appreciate the role of lifestyles and culture in influencing diet
  • Recognise the potential benefits for both caterers and customers of providing a choice of healthier options
  • Know more about ingredient selection and methods of food production and processing that can be used to create healthier options, whilst being attractive and convenient to modern tastes and lifestyles
  • Be able to apply appropriate and relevant skills and knowledge when advising catering businesses or when planning, preparing, promoting and serving healthier foods

For further details about the course content and the course tutor, Dr Jane Philpott, please see http://cookingforhealth-uk.com/healthier-catering.php.

Reference

Hall JN, et al. Global variability in fruit and vegetable consumption. Am J Prev Med. 36(5), 2009.

How to get your children to eat more vegetables

Give the vegetables cool names!

When 186 four-year olds were given carrots called “X-ray Vision Carrots” they ate nearly twice as many as they did on the lunch days when they were simply labelled as “carrots.”  The children continued to eat about 50 per cent more carrots even on the days when they were no longer labelled, according to a new study by researchers at Cornell University.

carrot varieties

“Cool names can make for cool foods,” says lead author Professor Brian Wansink of Cornell University. “Whether it be ‘power peas’ or ‘dinosaur broccoli trees,’ giving a food a fun name makes kids think it will be more fun to eat. And it seems to keep working – even the next day.”

Similar results have been found with adults. A restaurant study showed that when the Seafood Filet was changed to “Succulent Italian Seafood Filet,” sales increased by 28 per cent and taste rating increased by 12 per cent.

“Same food, but different expectations, and a different experience,”

said Wansink, author of “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Eat More Than We Think.”

carrot-flowers

Although the study was conducted in pre-schools, the researchers believe the same naming tricks can work with older children.

“I’ve been using this with my kids,” said researcher Collin Payne, “Whatever sparks their imagination seems to spark their appetite.”

Here are some more ideas to tempt your children to enjoy the wonders of the fruit and vegetable world:

  • Ben 10’s Bionic Broccoli
  • Elastigirl’s Shapeshifting Strawberries
  • Hogwart’s Hufflepuff Herbs
  • Lady Penelope’s Pinky Peaches
  • Pokemon’s Powerblast Parsnips
  • Spongebob’s Squarepants Supersonic Squash
  • Thunderbirds’ Hypersonic Rocket Leaf
  • Wonder Woman’s Wicked Watermelon

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Obesity begins at home

Researchers at the University of California have found that adolescents are more likely to eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day if their parents do.  In contrast, teenagers whose parents consume fast food and fizzy drinks are more likely to do the same.

boy_with_vegetables

A survey of thousands of teenagers revealed that:

  • Teens whose parents drink soft fizzy drinks every day are nearly 40 percent more likely to drink fizzy drinks themselves than teens whose parents do not drink fizzy drinks
  • Teens whose parents eat five servings of fruit and vegetables daily are 16 percent more likely to do the same than teens whose parents who do not eat five servings a day
  • Nearly half of adolescents (48 percent) whose parents drink fizzy drinks every day eat fast food at least once a day, while only 39 percent of teens whose parents who do not drink fizzy drinks eat fast food once daily
  • 45 percent of teens whose parents do not eat five servings of fruit and vegetables daily eat fast food at least once a day, while only 39 percent of teens whose parents eat five servings a day eat fast food at least once daily

“The research shows us that one of the keys to solving the teen obesity crisis starts with parents, but we must also improve the abysmal food environments in many low-income communities,” said Dr Robert K. Ross, president and chief executive officer of the California endowment.  “While parents are the primary role models for their children and their behaviour can positively – or negatively – influence their children’s health, it is also essential that local officials representing low-income communities work to expand access to fruit, vegetables and other healthful foods”.

Educating parents about healthy food choices, as well as how to plan and prepare healthier meals, would help in rducing teenage obesity, according to the authors of the policy brief. 

They also recommend employment policies that promote a better work-life balance.  Given more flexible working hours, more families might have time to prepare food at home and engage more often in family meals – an activity that has been linked to healthier lifestyles.

For more information on courses available on choosing and preparing healthy food for your children see Healthy Cooking for Your Children.

Jane Philpott, Cooking for Health