Nutritional therapists use diet to deter Alzheimer's disease in susceptible people. Many practitioners now believe that certain nutritional deficiencies or excesses may actually trigger the disease. For example, free radicals, compounds in the body that can damage tissues and quicken the aging process, have been linked to the progression of the disease. Antioxidants have the ability to neutralize free radicals and are, therefore, typically recommended as preventive measures. Nutrients that are antioxidants or help in the antioxidant process include:
- Vitamins C and E
Good food sources of beta-carotene include apricots, carrots, spinach and sweet potatoes. Vitamin C is found in broccoli, grapefruits, oranges and strawberries, and vitamin E is available from nuts and vegetable oils. Selenium is found in brewer's yeast, cabbage, fish, liver and whole-grain cereals. Supplements may also be prescribed to supply antioxidants, especially in the case of vitamin E, which has high-fat food sources.
Some supplements may actually be useful for slowing the progression of the disease. Phosphatidyl choline enhances the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine-transmitting neurons and their target nerve cells are the most frequently affected part of the brain in Alzheimer's disease. N-Acetyl-l-carnitine also appears to protect neurons in a similar manner. Phosphatidyl serine can enhance neural functioning significantly by normalizing cell membrane fluidity.
People with Alzheimer's disease are frequently deficient in vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and folate. Adding these can also be preventive measures. Vitamin B12 deficiency is often associated with depression, confusion, neurologic problems and memory loss. Folate deficiency can also cause these symptoms, and deficiency of vitamin B6 is associated with a decline in the number of receptors in the brain for the neurotransmitter dopamine. All of these symptoms of deficiency seem to parallel the major symptoms of Alzheimer's-related brain dysfunction.
Other helpful supplements include:
Because high concentrations of aluminum may contribute to Alzheimer disease -- autopsies have revealed high levels of aluminum in the brains of people with the disease -- cookware and utensils made from this metal should not be used when preparing food. Avoiding aluminum requires detective work; it can be found in drinking water, processed foods, toothpaste, deodorants and antiperspirants, antacid tablets and other everyday products.
A nutritional preventive strategy might consist of taking vitamin E, vitamin C beta-carotene and phosphatidyl serine (300 mg) on a daily basis.