Doctor's Note

My mom’s mom died of Alzheimer’s. It is worth preventing at all costs.

Up to half of Alzheimer’s cases may be attributable to just those 7 risk factors, and that’s not even including diet, because there were so many dietary factors that they couldn’t fit them into their model. What role does diet play? That’s the subject of my next video, Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease with Diet

So far these are some of the videos I’ve done on dementia prevention and treatment:

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  • elsie blanche

    Is there any chance that synthetic vitamins, vitamin and mineral fortification of foods, pills, etc. has been a contributing cause
    to Alzheimers in some cases? These synthetics are actually brand new to humans…our bodies never had to process these sort
    of reactions before, and who knows what the long-term consequences are, brain-wise, etc.

    • Darryl

      Excesses of certain minerals have been linked to neurodegeneration. A key study found an interaction between high saturated fat diets and copper in supplements in cognitive decline.
      Morris, M. C., Evans, D. A., Tangney, C. C., Bienias, J. L., Schneider, J. A., Wilson, R. S., & Scherr, P. A. (2006). Dietary copper and high saturated and trans fat intakes associated with cognitive decline. Archives of Neurology,63(8), 1085-1088.

      Among persons whose diets were high in saturated and trans fats, higher copper intake was associated with a faster rate of cognitive decline. In multiple-adjusted mixed models, the difference in rates for persons in the highest (median, 2.75 mg/d) vs lowest (median, 0.88 mg/d) quintiles of total copper intake was −6.14 standardized units per year (P<.001) or the equivalent of 19 more years of age. There was also a marginally statistically significant association (P = .07) with the highest quintile of food intake of copper (median, 1.51 mg/d) and a strong dose-response association with higher copper dose in vitamin supplements. Copper intake was not associated with cognitive change among persons whose diets were not high in these fats.

      • elsie blanche

        Awesome. Thanks for posting this study. I’d read something mentioning this a ways back, and had gotten the feeling that some vegan diets, if very high in saturated fats, could be worrisome as far as neuro-issues because most vegan diets tend to be far higher in copper than zinc, and, regardless of zinc, copper is pretty darn high in beans and nuts and grains. It is in no way difficult to greatly exceed the daily RDA for copper. Heck, eat too many grains and beans consistently, while at the same time indulging in coconut oil, overdosing on nuts and seeds, and there might be some red-flags for vegans.

        • guest

          my girlfriend told me about a year ago to stop taking any multivitamin or supplement with vitamin E in it because she read somewhere that it caused strokes of the brain in men. Its been hard to tell you the truth, because tocopherols are put into just about everything for freshness or something. But aside form food sources, I have done away with anything pill related with vit E.

          • elsie blanche

            Interesting. Makes me wonder if high intake of vitamin E rich foods, – too many avocados, nuts, palm oil, etc., on daily basis, could also cause these strokes. Aside from vitamin E, the blood thinning properties of DHA-algae, fish oils, etc, (if taken too much daily) could cause strokes in susceptible folks.

          • Darryl

            The most interesting hypothesis I’ve seen to account for issues with high-dose vitamin E supplementation is that high doses of the alpha-tocopherol form found in supplements may interfere with absorption of other forms of vitamin E. And those other forms, like the most common vitamin E from diets, gamma-tocopherol, may serve important roles that alpha-tocopherol doesn’t.

          • elsie blanche

            When I use a little bit of red palm oil I seem to have way better memory recall, a totally different experience than what I have had with other vitamin E foods. But too much red palm oil (too much saturated fat!) and memory recall seems way worse than without red palm oil). For now I assume that there is a special/unique highly-absorbable form of vitamin E in the red palm oil.

          • elsie blanche

            Breathing is much deeper as well, with a little bit of red palm oil, but too much and I experience the opposite as well.

    • Catherine J Frompovich
      • elsie blanche

        All that stuff raining down on our crops, plants, waterways.

        And don’t forget the aluminum linings used in canned beans, even BPA-free canned liners and cardboard box
        beans (aluminum liners heated to high temperatures for long cooking times. Rinse your canned beans several
        times!

  • Clem K

    I’d like to see an article/video showing the link between AD , risk for CVD and the apoe4 allele. Apparnetly, there’s higher risk for both if you carry at least one copy.

    • guest

      reminds me of a horrible joke I heard a long time ago about how people with AD look at a bowl of corn flakes after they just had one and really can taste it again for the first time. I probably lost some karma cause I laughed just a bit. Oh well.

      • guest

        this was meant to reply to HD’s comment below. I blame my cat for quantum interference.

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    I was just going to tell you something, but I can’t remember.

  • Susan W

    Dr. Gregor could you please comment on the use of long-term HRT’s as a means prevention of Alzheimer’s? This would be in addition to a lifestyle of exercise and whole food plant-based diet. And thank you so much. You are a source of great encouragement and education.

  • Lupus Help

    Dr. Greger, please look into this. JHU has as good a reputation than any in the world. For them to be making the below statement is to be taken seriously. Who knows what other autoimmune issues are being possibly made worse (or caused?) by garlic:

    “The Johns Hopkins Lupus Center has recently listed garlic as a food to be avoided by persons diagnosed with lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE).”

      • Lupus Help

        I think “John Hopkins Lupus Center” is “literature” in itself. Obviously the doctors there (some of the most respected
        and looked up to on Earth/there seems to be a consensus on this in the medical community) are possibly onto something
        regarding suggestion abstinence of garlic for lupus patients. Hopefully you have an “in” at JHU and can inquire as to
        what they are basing this bold and emphatic statement on. They are not the sort of medical and scientific community to
        throw around unsubstantiated statements, recommendations, and claims.

        • HemoDynamic, M.D.

          Garlic

          (From John Hopkins Lupus Center. Link below)

          “Scientists believe that three substancs in garlic—allicin, ajoene, and thiosulfinates—rev-up your immune system by enhancing the activity of white blood cells, particularly macrophages and lymphocytes. Scientists also believe that the sulfur components of garlic help to prevent and suppress cancer in the body. For this reason, garlic is often used as a supplement to combat colds and infections. Unfortunately, the enhancement of immune response is counterproductive in people with autoimmune disease such as lupus, because their immune system is already overactive. As a result, people with lupus and lupus-like signs should avoid cooking with garlic and adding it to food. Of course, a tiny amount of the herb will not harm you, but try to consciously avoid purchasing and preparing foods with garlic.”

          http://www.hopkinslupus.org/?s=garlic

          I know the mechanism to chronic inflammation is much more complicated than this simple explanation JHU states. Eliminating animal foods (Pro-inflammatory and immunostimulating) should be the first advice with all autoimmune diseases because they are the main cause of chronic inflammation, but I don’t see why one should prevent one from boosting your immune system that fights infection. (http://nutritionfacts.org/video/boosting-immunity-while-reducing-inflammation/)

          If eliminating animal foods doesn’t help than an elimination diet such as the Rice Diet from Walter Kempner, MD from Duke University would be a good idea. Then slowly add foods back to the diet and see which cause flare-ups and remove those from your diet.

          And unfortunately some people still have to go on immunomodulating medications to reduce their chronic inflammation.

          Many plant foods have immune boosting properties such as Broccoli on your gut wall (http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-broccoli-receptor-our-first-line-of-defense-2/) just do a search on Nutritionfacts.org about a specific food and immunity and see the plethora of plant foods that boost your immune system in a healthy way.

          I hope this helps.

          • Stewart

            I very much appreciate your posting this Doc. It needs repeating early and often. I had inflammatory arthritis and “cured” it by eliminating gluten. In spit of great vigilance it would return if even the slightest amount slipped into the diet. I then came across this website and all the pro inflammatory factors in meat really jumped out at me. I went whole foods plant based with almost no added oil. Now there seems to be no gluten sensitivity at all and my immune system has kept me without a cold for the past two years. So the auto immune disease is gone and the gluten sensitivity is gone as well. So I will contend that enhancement of the immune system by making it more powerful and less indiscriminant is a monster benefit

            Now, interestingly enough, when someone with an auto immune disease asks me how I cured myself without methotrexate they want to seize on my gluten free story and talk about how hard that is but they say they will try it. I point out that wheat is very healthy if you do not have a specific problem with it. If you do have a sensitivity that can frequently be alleviated with a WFPBD. I’ve heard of numerous accounts of this other than my own.

            I believe the resistance to going beyond the gluten free idea has to do with the paleo diet nonsense that so permeates our public discourse. Overwhelming evidence is important but repetition really helps knowledge get through to the practical levels.

          • HemoDynamic, M.D.

            I appreciate your reply!
            A WFPBD has amazing benefits as you have experienced!
            Cheers!

          • Vege-tater

            And the clincher that really gets me is that the industries that encourage and help proliferate the spread of the bogus paleo meat pushing trash are the ones that greatly profit from it, while so many of the clueless sheeple pay the ultimate price, unawares. Kind of a long term animal’s revenge? :P

  • mb

    Thank you for this review. Could you elaborate a bit on how to avoid “Cognitive inactivity” that’s a risk factor for AD? Are there any studies to guide us on what types of mental exercise are most beneficial, how much, and how often?

    • dogulas

      Off the cuff I’d wager that non-intellectually-stimulating TV and movie watching is where the majority of cognitive inactivity is happening for most people.

    • bob

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130415151439.htm

      “This review provides some evidence to help clinicians and their patients address what strategies might prevent cognitive decline,” said Dr. Raza Naqvi, a University of Toronto resident and lead author of the review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

      The issue is of particular importance given that mild cognitive impairment affects 10 to 25 per cent of people over age 70. Mild cognitive impairment is characterized by reduced memory, judgment, and decision-making skills compared to someone of a similar age, but not enough to interfere with daily activities.

      The annual rate of decline into dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, is about 10 per cent. Given that rate and the aging population, it’s estimated the number of Canadians with dementia will double to more than 1 million in the next 25 years.

      They found no strong evidence for pharmacologic treatments such as cholinesterase inhibitors that were developed to improve the effectiveness of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger that assists memory, thought and judgment.

      Nor was there strong evidence that herbal supplements such as gingko improved cognitive functions or vitamins and fatty acids such as vitamin B6 or omega-3 fatty acids.

      Some studies on estrogen actually indicated an increase in cognitive decline and dementia.

      Evidence on the value of physical exercise, such as strength-training, was weak.

      The strongest evidence was for the value of mental exercises such as computerized training programs or intensive one-on-one personal cognitive training in memory, reasoning, or speed of processing.

      I take a supplement called Cognitex…some MCT oil…and turmeric….among others. A main issue for the elderly is loss of muscle strength that can cause falls….so I exercise. As far as exercising the brain…mostly watch PBS…play video games…do art….not wasting time on politics (humans have been f*cking it up for thousands of years?)…etc. I think one needs to have a “passion” for whatever is “intellectually stimulating” to make it effective….that is find some meaning…sometimes hard to do. There might not be any overall meaning…so if it means something to you and it’s reasonably healthy…do it?

  • Matthew Smith

    Thank you very much for sharing this literature review of great worth to the scientific community. I am sorry to hear of the loss of your mother. I have been watching your website. You say whole grain and maybe berries can prevent this disease, and that saffron, and maybe lavender and citrus (aroma therapy) can treat it or at least its depressive symptoms. Most people’s frontal lobes shrink with age. What I thought was interesting was that a published study said that the brains of the mentally ill shrink up to 9 percent in their lives. Was was strange was this was less than for other people. Is there a diet for the frontal lobe? Is it tea or matcha, and nuts, beans, berries, whole grain, salad and fresh veggies and fresh fruit? I have often thought of absent loved ones. I sure hope that I can remember where they are in my life. Is it possible Alzheimer’s is related to inhalant abuse or drug abuse to get back to a loved one? I think Alzheimer’s is a disease of love and one ups manship trying to out love the disease. There are more nerve endings in your intestines then in your brain or in your nerves. Perhaps probiotics can help the brain heal. Perhaps there are contours in the body that can make us whole. I always thought the brain diet, blueberries, unfiltered grape juice (Trader Joes), whole grains, nuts and seeds, and spinach, might help the heal, and I am eagerly awaiting your video tomorrow.

  • Carlo

    Prof. Woodrow Monte’s website
    >http://www.whilesciencesleeps.com/references/&lt; has an extensive
    list of research studies regarding the effects of methanol and its
    metabolite formaldehyde in our modern diet. According to Monte and his
    colleagues, areas of the world that have the highest incidences of DOC
    (Diseases of Civilization) such as Alzheimer's, MS, Cancer, Autism, etc,
    are likely to consume or use tobacco products, diet products, canned
    foods and smoked meats. Lifestyles in the Blue Zones probably don't
    include too many of those products. To eliminate as many DOC's as
    possible is it worth it to ride into the "Blue" on a plant-based diet?
    Yeah, think I'll sit in the no-smoking section and cut the methanol and formaldehyde please!

  • bob

    Improve your memory and support Mars?

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141026195046.htm

    The high-flavanol group also performed significantly better on the memory test. “If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old,” said Dr. Small. He cautioned, however, that the findings need to be replicated in a larger study — which he and his team plan to do.

    Flavanols are also found naturally in tea leaves and in certain fruits and vegetables, but the overall amounts, as well as the specific forms and mixtures, vary widely.

    http://www.swansonvitamins.com/mars-botanical-cocoavia-cocoa-extract-60-veg-caps

  • Since the 1980s there has been research into the role inflammation plays in the development of Alzheimer’s:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10858586
    And recent investigations are still looking at inflammation, particularly with looking at how inflammation initiates the onset of Alzheimer’s disease:
    http://dana.org/News/Details.aspx?id=43258

    My mother and my uncle, my grandmother and two of her siblings, my great-grandmother, and who knows how many others in my maternal side of the family, all ended up with Alzheimer’s. For all of them, it began in their 60s.
    A whole foods, plant based diet is probably the best anti-inflammatory diet one could follow, in my opinion. Based on what researchers are looking into, I’m betting on eating plant based as the best way to prevent AD.

  • Lawrence

    Thanks Dr. G. for highlighting the results of the Barnes/Yaffe paper. Rather than getting into the weeds as some of the commenters have done, I’d like to take a step back and look at the big picture. The greatest risk reduction for preventing AD is shown to be first physical activity and second not being depressed. Well, without proof, I think it is easy to show an inverse relationship between physical exercise and lack of depression; Nutritionfacts has videos on this I’m sure. Moreover, if people follow a WFPB diet (which presumably many folks who would be frequenting this site, let alone get to reading this comment, already do), then their chances of being obese, T2 diabetic or hypertensive are fairly low. I can’t say much about cognitive stimulation, but I think being on this site constitutes mental exercise; and vegans tend to be an educated bunch to begin with (again, without proof, but not difficult to find).

    This gets back to physical activity as being the most important risk reduction activity. I assure your readers I am not affiliated and have no conflict of interest in what I am about to say, but rather am speaking from my own personal experience. Want to get fit and stay that way? In the comfort of your own home? Any time day or night? Silently and with no complicated, bulky, super-expensive equipment? Check out the Bellicon Rebounder. Go to their website and study up on the benefits of rebounding and the equipment on offer. I have been rebounding nearly every day for the past several months. 30-45 minute sessions and getting my heart rate up to around 125-140 bpm, being able to carry on a conversation without being winded. My sciatica has cleared up. My balance has improved. My legs and core muscles have firmed up. My visceral body fat has reduced (still working on the subQ). My blood pressure and glucose are normal. And, my mental outlook has improved; I look forward to my workouts every day and am really happy to be doing them. And, of course, I do follow a low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diet.

    My best wishes to all of you as we enter the ‘silly season’ and all its stresses and pressures. I know how stressful it is to know how important it is to exercise, but being pulled in every direction but the one that leads to you getting a decent workout on a regular basis. The Bellicon Rebounder may be just what you have been looking for. Peace.

    • Vege-tater

      That’s great, I think finding an exercise that you personally find FUN, or at least rewarding, so it motivates you to keep moving is huge! Whatever it may be, even just taking a walk outside. Accomplishing what feels like another chore isn’t something most people are likely to stick with, no matter how good it may be for us.

  • Matthew Smith

    Dr. Greger recommends tumeric with pepper, Saffron, and maybe aroma therapy with lavender and citrus peel for the treatment of Alzheimer’s,conceding that this disease is a death sentence. Perhaps it is a survivors disease, that there are people who serve different purposes in our mind and when they die we lose a little of ourselves. Perhaps there are types of people, and different types of people do different activities that help our own minds, and we can feel them leave and lose some of our selves when they are gone. Perhaps whole grains, berries, and grapes can help others cope with the burden of serving someone who is losing so much of their society. Perhaps, rather, their mind is growing with responsibility as they age and they need to remove the extra fat it takes to run an older mind with more memories. Maybe efficient use of energy would help these people, as with exercise, fenugreek, and beets. Maybe these people need to use energy more efficiently with whole grains and fresh vegetables, green tea, or barley. A diet rich in enzymes and essential atoms would make a big difference in our lives.

  • Judy Fields Davis

    thanks so much!

  • Rodrigo Cardoso

    Translated to Portuguese | Legendado em Português: http://nf.focoempatico.net/prevencao-alzheimer-mudancas-do-estilo-de-vida/

  • Catherine Morgan

    I’m all for prevention and am a strong NutritionFacts.org fan. And I have no beef (sorry about the pun) with anything in the video. Except “many Alzheimer victims might not choose to live without recognizing family, friends, or themselves in a mirror.” Maybe. But by that stage, someone with Alzheimer’s (or a related issue such as frontal lobe dementia, or lewy body disease, doesn’t necessarily know clearly about the lack of recognition. And even if they do — it’s possible for people around them to provide a really high quality of life. I know from personal experience with my life partner that this is so. There are plenty of books and inspiring care givers to show how. And I’d add that diet and exercise aren’t the only things to address in prevention; Naomi Feil has written good advice for minimizing the risk of old age dementia: practice developing your least favored sensory mode (visual/auditory/kinaesthetic) AND stay current with your feelings. (That is — resolve emotional/mental problems as they arise and don’t just suppress them.)

  • cami

    Will a whole plant based diet help with Cervical Dystonia (a movement disorder) too?