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Waterford research promotes foods like spinach and peppers

Key role for diet in Alzheimer's disease

According to new research, a nutrient-rich diet with lots of colourful fruit, vegetables and fish can play a key role in protecting our brain health and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The two-year review by a team from the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland (NRCI) in the School of Health Science at Waterford Institute of Technology focused on the part played by nutrition in cognition and Alzheimer’s disease which is the most common form of dementia.

The research found that nutritional components featured at high levels in the ‘Mediterranean diet’ are active in preventing oxidative damage and inflammation of key parts of the brain – meaning they have significant potential for protecting cognition and reducing the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease which is a growing public health risk as populations age.

Reviews show that those with cognitive impairment have poorer dietary patterns and are deficient in both carotenoids and Omega-3 fatty acids in comparison to cognitively-healthy individuals. This suggests that nutritional intervention may benefit those with mild cognitive impairment or early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Carotenoids and Omega-3 fatty acids are present in brain tissue and it is likely they play a significant role in maintaining cognition as they help reduce the harm caused to older people by oxidative stress and neuro-inflammation.

Prof Nolan: “Efforts to reduce the risk of dementia through diet and supplementation is particularly significant as our population gets older. … At an individual level, diet and exercise are two powerful interventions we can make to help protect our general and brain health as we get older. We should aim to eat lots of plant-based foods and olive oil as well as fish but also much less processed foods, saturated fats, meat and poultry. A good guide on diet is the more vibrant, naturally-coloured a food is, the better it is for us so look out for foods like spinach and peppers and try to have plenty of variety on your plate at meal times.”


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