According to the United Nations (UN), the global population of those aged 60 and up will increase from 962 million in 2017 to 2.1 billion by 2050, and it is predicted that dementia rates will rise in tandem with the aging population.
Dementia is a chronic disease that affects a large and growing number of older adults in the United States. (2)
It is already known that after around 40 years of age, the immune system starts to decline. As people age, their immune systems experience a type of chronic low-grade inflammation. This type of age-related inflammation has been linked to dementia. (2)
Dementia, therefore presents itself as a disease of aging and is characterized by a progressive, cognitive decline that interferes with independent functioning. People with dementia are more likely to have coexisting chronic health problems than those without dementia, owing to their age and the prevalence of certain diseases (e.g., stroke and depression). (9)
In a study we are to read about, researchers in Greece have recently investigated a link between inflammatory diets and the risk of dementia in older individuals. (2)
They discovered that people who consumed highly inflammatory diets were more than three times more likely to develop dementia than those who ate anti-inflammatory diets. (2)
The Study For Dementia Prevention
The researchers were from the United States, Greece, and Ireland, and they conducted a population based-study involving both men and women, to investigate the effects of inflammatory diets on cognitive decline. (2)
The study appears in the journal Neurology. (2)
In total, the researchers chose 1,059 people to participate. None of the participants had dementia, and they all provided dietary information on the main food groups they had consumed in the previous month. (2)
The Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII), a tool that assesses a person’s diet’s inflammatory potential, was used to evaluate the diets of the participants. It contains 45 food parameters, including macronutrients and micronutrients, bioactive compounds, and spices. (2)
The researchers split the participants into three equal groups according to how inflammatory their diets were. Among the 1,059 individuals the researchers included in the analyses, 62 developed dementia during the 3-year follow-up period.
It was found that those with the most inflammatory diets were 3.43 times more likely than those with the least inflammatory diets to develop dementia. (2)
It was also noted that the study was an observational one, not a clinical trial, and also of relatively short duration, only 3 years.
Therefore, this does not prove that eating an anti-inflammatory diet prevents brain aging and dementia – but it does show an association.
It was concluded that the study offers a huge opportunity to explain to communities the potential long-term damage of pro-inflammatory diets. (2)
Dr. Stough, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at Swinburne University in Australia, states of the study – ”Diets that comprise takeaway foods and fast foods are generally leading to pro-inflammatory diets. We need to consider healthier diets that focus on vegetables and fruits, in general, whole foods, etc. Given that we are all busy, this will not be an easy goal to achieve, but we need to find ways to promote healthier diets.”
Prof. Stough was not involved in the medical study but believes the diet has both advantages and disadvantages.
He also stated – “We need to have a serious look at pro-inflammatory foods that we consume in Western diets. There has recently been a lot of attention paid to research on Mediterranean diets, which are anti-inflammatory and seem to have positive effects against cognitive decline and dementia risk.” (2)
Stough added “Certainly, the microbiome could have a huge impact. What we eat seems to impact […] the diversity of our microbiome, i.e., what bacteria live in our microbiome. Gut bacteria appear to have a role for inflammation themselves and produce peptides that can increase inflammation (bad bacteria).
As we get older, too, there is greater leakage from the gut [that] also causes inflammation, so having a bad diet could increase the number of pro-inflammatory bacteria in the gut,” he explained.
Stough summarized “Different foods can also increase the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. […] Increased inflammation or systemic inflammation can directly damage neurons as well as impact cardiovascular function. Both direct damage to the brain and changes in cardiovascular function could contribute to cognitive decline as well as increase dementia risk,”(2)
Anti-Inflammatory Diets To Live Well
Anti-inflammatory diets can help us make a conscious effort to eliminate foods that our bodies recognize as foreign—such as invading microbes, plant pollen, or chemicals. This is because these foodstuffs can trigger a process called inflammation. (1)
Intermittent bouts of inflammation directed at truly dangerous invaders safeguards our health. However, if inflammation persists day after day, even when we are not threatened by foreign invaders, inflammation can become our adversary. (2)
Many major diseases that plague us—including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, depression, dementia, and Alzheimer’s, have all been linked to chronic inflammation. (1)
If you wish to know more about foods that fight inflammation and pain, or how anti-inflammatory diets can be enjoyed, shared, and relished, you can sign up for Dr. Nandi’s newsletter today!
What Are The Best Anti-Inflammatory Foodstuffs?
There is no single foodstuff that will improve a person’s health. Variety is key with an anti-inflammatory ‘medicine list’.
An anti-inflammatory diet includes combining a variety of foods that provide a range of antioxidants, is rich in nutrients, and contains healthy fats. (6)
People who wish to eat anti-inflammatory foods on a regular basis should concentrate first on consuming:
- Olives and olive oil
- Nuts and seeds
- Oily fish
- Probiotics and prebiotics
- Herbal teas
- Some spices, such as ginger and Tumeric.
Equally, they should avoid:
- Nightshade vegetables
- Processed foods
- Pre-made desserts
- Unhealthy oils
- Foods with excess sugar or salt. (6)
Other studies have shown that berries, avocados, broccoli, green tea, mushrooms, grapes, turmeric, cacao, and dark chocolate, tomatoes, and cherries top the list when it comes to being the best anti-inflammatory fruits, vegetables, or anti-inflammatory foods.
Even coffee can help if drunk in moderation because of its antioxidants, which help fight free radicals in the body and are safe to include in an anti-inflammatory diet. (6)
Being associated with heart health and weight loss, anti-inflammatory diets run a much lower risk of nutrient deficiencies than other diets. An anti-inflammatory diet comes with a slew of health benefits, because the diet generally contains antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which help reduce inflammation in our bodies. (8)
With costs to our healthcare systems (attributable to dementia) increasing, we can all do our bit with the knowledge we have to stay healthy.
Examples Of Anti-Inflammatory Diets
Let food be your medicine! An anti-inflammatory diet is a way of eating rather than a specific regimen. The philosophy behind it is simple – to reduce levels of inflammation in the body, while aiming for overall health.
Some foods contain ingredients that can cause, or exacerbate inflammation. Sugary or processed foods cause this, whereas fresh, whole foods are less likely to do so. Eating animal products can also increase the risk of systemic inflammation, plus insulin resistance. (6)
A vegetarian diet is a great option, as it can reduce inflammation. People who follow a vegetarian-based diet are likely to have lower levels of various inflammatory markers. A vegan diet also helps reduce inflammation. (6)
The Mediterranean diet, which is high in vegetables, nuts, fruits, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils is another example. It is a diet that many live well by every day. (1)
It’s not just Europeans who are converting to the health benefits involved in consuming a Mediterranean diet.It’s favored also in some parts of the USA. Mediterranean Diets are most popular on the West Coast and in the Northeast of the USA, including California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York City, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. (3)
Other diets that are considered anti-inflammatory are Asian diets, or the DASH diet – short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Also the Henry Ford Health system is a whole lifestyle that embraces anti-inflammatory foods to reduce inflammation – leading to a healthy mind and body. (4 5,10)
As you can see, there is no single anti-inflammatory diet, rather diets rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, that may aid in inflammation management. (6)
Healthy Anti-Inflammatory Journeys
Anti-inflammatory foods that help us feel and look our best are everywhere; in supermarkets, health food stores, even farmers’ markets. Anti-inflammatory diets also contain a lot of whole foods, allowing us to home-cook our meals.
Eating healthy is simple. Yet when tracking for overall well-being, it’s sometimes hard to do this favoring the foods listed above – especially when starting out on a new food regime.
If you really want to do yourself and your body a favor, packed full of medical wisdom and time-tested science-based techniques is Dr. Nandi’s newsletter – and you can sign up today so you don’t feel unaided in your journey.
Diet is a lifestyle factor we can all modify. As flagged up in the study there may well be some potent nutritional tools already in your home to help fight any inflammation that could contribute to your own prevention of dementia. (2)