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Alzheimer’s disease is a severe neurodegenerative disorder, responsible for 60-70% of cases of dementia. Patients experience a gradual loss of memory, language skills, and cognitive functions, with a great impact on their quality of life. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease, but medication, dietary, and lifestyle management can temporarily improve symptoms. In this article, we’ll discuss the diet an Alzheimer's patient should take to manage the disease better.

(Read more: Exercises to prevent dementia)

  1. Essential nutrients to include in Alzheimer patient's diet
  2. Superfoods to control Alzheimer’s Disease
  3. What not to eat in Alzheimer's disease
  4. Other dietary tips for Alzheimer’s patients
  5. Indian diet plan for Alzheimer's disease patients
Doctors for Alzheimer’s Disease Diet

While reversing the course of Alzheimer's is still not possible, there are some dietary nutrients that can slow the progression or help in the prevention of the disease. Here are a couple of important dietary nutrients with scientific evidence supporting their inclusion in the diet of an Alzheimer's patient.

Vitamin K

There are few research studies which have shown a relationship between vitamin K and the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin K is also responsible for other important work in the body such as blood clotting, bone health, and brain health. To add this vitamin to your diet, you can add these foods to your regular diet:

(Read more: Vitamin K rich foods)

Vitamin D

Patients of Alzheimer's have a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, which is also associated with low mood and impaired cognitive performance in older people. Research has shown that vitamin D has a beneficial role in Alzheimer’s disease and improves cognitive function in some patients. To add vitamin D in the diet, include these foods:

(Read more: Vitamin D rich foods)

Here are a few foods that may help in controlling the progression of Alzheimer's. 

Walnut: Walnut is an excellent source of vitamin E, flavonoid, omega-3 fatty acid, and melatonin, whose impact on brain and heart health is now well-established. Studies now suggest that consumption of walnuts may significantly slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. A few pieces of walnut can be had daily as a mid-meal snack or as a Waldorf salad.

Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate contains flavanols that may benefit brain function. Flavanols are a form of flavonoids - plant-based substances that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that are beneficial in Alzheimer’s disease. To add this superfood to the diet, you can use cocoa powder in your hot chocolate, milkshake, and in your desserts or can have one block of 75% dark chocolate as a dessert.

Fatty fish: Fatty fish are a good source of DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) and known for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiapoptotic and neurotrophic properties. A cardiovascular health cognition study found that the consumption of fatty fish was associated with a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week, particularly fatty fish like Rawas (Indian Salmon), Bangda (Indian Mackerel), Surmai (King Mackerel), all of which are high in omega-3s.

(Read more: Best fish to eat in India)

Turmeric: Turmeric a world-famous spice these days. It is known for its anti-cancerous, anti-inflammatory, anti-ageing, and antioxidant properties. The curcumin found in turmeric has been shown to help curb inflammation and combat oxidative stress, two factors that may contribute to Alzheimer's disease. Try to take this superfood once a day at least, or twice a day for better results. it can also be had as a turmeric latte (golden milk) as a bedtime milk/ snack. You can add turmeric to curry, lentils, and pickles as well.

(Read more: Home Remedies to Improve Memory)

As important as it is to know what to eat for an Alzheimer's patient, one should also know which foods are best avoided. Here are some foods that should not be a part of an Alzheimer's diet:

  • Eating refined carbohydrates and high sugar food can worsen the symptoms of this disease. Try to avoid all-purpose flour, cake, pastry, pudding, sweets, soft drinks, and fruit juices.
  • High sodium food can be harmful in this disease. Processed and junk food, foods are high in preservatives such as pickle, sauces, catch up, canned food, ready to eat food, breakfast cereals are all high in sodium and should be avoided. (Read more: Sodium Test)
  • Trans fats can have a detrimental effect on brain health and worsen this disease. It is high in packaged food products, pizza, burgers, etc.
  • Aspartame is an artificial sweetener (sugar-free) that is commonly used in many soft drinks and sugar-free products. It has been linked to behavioural and cognitive problems. Try to avoid it. (Read more: Stevia side effects)
  • Alcohol can make Alzheimer's worse. Stop consuming alcoholic drinks of any sort as soon as possible. (Read more: Alcohol side effects)

The correct dietary interventions can help in managing Alzheimer's better. Here's a quick guide to keep in mind to manage this disease better:

  • Ensure sufficient water consumption: Someone with Alzheimer’s may not drink enough water because their body's signal for thirst doesn’t remain as strong as it used to be. So help them schedule reminders in their mobile phone for drinking water regularly and check with them every now and then if they've had enough water. You can fill their bottle with water and ask them to finish it the whole day.
  • Provide easy to chew foods: Eating can be painful in this problem, but the patient may not be able to tell you this. Make sure dentures fit and visit the dentist regularly. Also, opt for dishes and foods that aren't hard to chew or swallow. Grind foods or cut them into bite-size pieces. You can also consider serving soft foods such as apple stew, cottage cheese, scrambled eggs, milkshake, porridge.
  • Help avoid choking while eating: Avoid foods that are difficult to chew thoroughly, like raw vegetables, as they could potentially lead to the patient choking. Encourage them to sit up straight with his or her head slightly forward while eating. If their head tilts backwards, move it to a forward position. At the end of the meal, check the patient's mouth to make sure food has been swallowed.
  • Prevent constipation: Some Alzheimer's medications can cause constipation. The patient can also get constipated if they don't eat or drink sufficiently. To avoid constipation, try to add plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in their diet.
  • Be cognizant of decrease in appetite: New medications or a dosage change may lead to decreased appetite. Try preparing their favourite dishes, increase physical activity, or plan for several small meals rather than three large meals. If the patient's appetite does not increase and if they are losing weight, consult with the doctor. Keep in mind, as the person's activity level decreases, he or she may not need as many calories.

Here is a sample Indian diet plan for Alzheimer's that incorporates all of the above advice. You can substitute foods to your taste as long as they are nutritionally equivalent. It contains easily available foods and dishes that are quick to cook so that it is easy to follow:

  • Early morning: milk (1 cup) + walnut (4-6)
  • Breakfast: stuffed paratha (2) + curd (1 bowl) + green chutney (2 teaspoon)
  • Mid meal: apple (1 small sized)
  • Lunch: chapati (2) + toor dal/ cucumber raita (1 bowl) + bottle gourd curry (1 bowl) + grated salad (1 bowl)
  • Evening tea: turmeric tea (1 cup) + roasted makhana (1 bowl)/ boiled egg (1)
  • Dinner: vegetable soup (1 big bowl) + besan chapati (2) + paneer curry (6-7 pieces) / fish curry (1-2 piece)
  • Bedtime: turmeric milk (1 glass)
Dr. Hemanth Kumar

Dr. Hemanth Kumar

Neurology
3 Years of Experience

Dr. Deepak Chandra Prakash

Dr. Deepak Chandra Prakash

Neurology
10 Years of Experience

Dr Madan Mohan Gupta

Dr Madan Mohan Gupta

Neurology
7 Years of Experience

Dr. Virender K Sheorain

Dr. Virender K Sheorain

Neurology
19 Years of Experience

References

  1. Lu'o'ng Khanh Vinh Quôc, et al. The beneficial role of vitamin D in Alzheimer's disease. Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen. 2011 Nov; 26(7): 511-20. PMID: 22202127
  2. Presse Nancy, et al. Low vitamin K intakes in community-dwelling elders at an early stage of Alzheimer's disease. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Dec;108(12):2095-9. PMID: 19027415
  3. Muthaiyah Balu, et al. Dietary supplementation of walnuts improves memory deficits and learning skills in transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. J Alzheimers Dis. 2014; 42(4): 1397-405. PMID: 25024344
  4. Mishra Shrikant, Palanivelu Kalpana. The effect of curcumin (turmeric) on Alzheimer's disease: An overview. Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 2008 Jan-Mar; 11(1): 13–19. PMID: 1996697
  5. Huang T L, et al. Benefits of fatty fish on dementia risk are stronger for those without APOE epsilon4. Neurology. 2005 Nov 8; 65(9):1409-14. PMID: 16275829
  6. Ajith Thekkuttuparambil Ananthanarayanan. A Recent Update on the Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Alzheimer's Disease. Curr Clin Pharmacol. 2018;13(4): 252-260. PMID: 30084334
  7. Cimini Annamaria, et al. Cocoa Powder Triggers Neuroprotective and Preventive Effects in a Human Alzheimer's Disease Model by Modulating BDNF Signaling Pathway. J Cell Biochem. 2013 Oct; 114(10): 2209–2220. PMID: 23554028

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