One of the most dreaded diseases of our modern age isn't heart disease or even cancer. Instead, it's Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Now new research is indicating that by consuming fish oil, you can protect yourself from these conditions, revealed Fox News on Jan. 23.
Conducted at the University of South Dakota, the latest study revealed that individuals with higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids may have larger brain volumes in old age. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish oil and cold water fish, and the study is highly significant because a reduction in brain volume is linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The research determined that women in the study who had higher levels of omega-3s had larger total brain volumes eight years later. Also important: MRIs revealed that higher levels of omega-3s were associated with increased volume in a specific brain region – the hippocampus.
“The hippocampus is known to be related to the progression of dementia,” said lead author Dr. Bill Harris, professor of medicine at Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota.
“As it shrinks, dementia becomes more of a problem. So we did find that people with higher omega-3s had higher volumes in the hippocampus – located right in the middle of the head, right at the top of the brain stem.”
What you should know to benefit from the study: Omega-3s consist of three types of fats:
- ALA, found in plant oils such as flax seed and canola
- EPA and DHA, found in marine oils
Although Harris said you can increase your intake of fish or take fish oil supplements, he emphasizes that the benefits are greatest if you enhance your diet with supplements made from EPA and DHA.
“[With ALA], in order for it to become effective, it has to be converted in the body after you eat it to these fish oil omega-3s,” Harris said. “That conversion process is very inefficient in most people, so you don’t really raise your omega-3 index by eating plant-based omega-3s.”
But what about other aspects of your diet? Are there certain foods, in addition to fish, to eat more of - and, conversely, foods to avoid? Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter says that the answer is yes, referring to studies showing that a high fat, low carb diet can protect your brain from dementia and Alzheimer's disease while boosting weight loss.
He recently talked with Medscape to explore the science behind his best-selling book: "Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers" (click for details).
Dr. Perlmutter says that a high fat diet that eliminates grains and sugar as well as reducing other carbohydrates can prevent or dramatically reduce your risk of dementia. He cited recent studies that support his views.
"A study published in August 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) was very supportive, indicating that even subtle elevations of fasting blood sugar translates to dramatically increased risk for dementia," noted Dr. Perlmutter.
Referring to that study, he cited the conclusion: "Our results suggest that higher glucose levels may be a risk factor for dementia, even among persons without diabetes."
But there's a difference between associations and causality, pointed out Medscape. Dr. Perlmutter says he recognizes that truth, but believes that the evidence shows "a lower-carbohydrate diet is the right choice for the heart and the immune system. There's no downside to it."
When questioned as to the type of diet or intervention that he recommends to protect or slow the onset of dementia, Dr. Perlmutter doesn't hesitate: A high fat, low carb diet, he contends, is the winner.
"The data show that individuals with lower blood sugar levels have a lower risk for dementia. Therefore, we've got to keep blood sugar low. We do so by using the time-honored dietary intervention of a lower-carbohydrate, higher-fat diet," he declares. Learn more about "Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers" by clicking here.
And to read an exclusive interview with Dr. Perlmutter, click here.