Expert Q&A

Alzheimer's disease: Can a good diet prevent it?

Can a good diet prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

-Olivia from New Hampshire

This is an issue that is very difficult to prove with certainty. Alzheimer’s disease is a form of brain deterioration termed “dementia.” In dementia, the damaged brain cells do not function, which results in impaired memory and intellectual function. To prove that diet can affect the development of dementia, a study would have to get careful details about a person’s eating habits for decades. Most people don’t remember the details of what they ate yesterday, and when asked about habits in general may not remember enough details to make the study valid. 

We do know that a diet rich in many different colors of fruits and vegetables; whole grains, nuts, seeds; and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids reduces the development of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. There is increasing evidence that Alzheimer’s is more likely to occur when there is atherosclerosis. One type of dementia is due specifically to atherosclerosis. So, it seems reasonable to draw the conclusion that while a good diet may not prevent Alzheimer’s, it most likely will reduce the risk. 

Eating a good diet, getting regular exercise, quitting smoking, and maintaining a normal weight may be the best combination to keeping our brains in tip-top shape well into our golden years.

John Messmer, MD
Contributing Expert

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