In the UK, a person is diagnosed with dementia every three minutes. Two out of every three of these are women.
According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, the prevalence of dementia in the UK among older people is worryingly high at 7.1%.
Worse still, the charity predicts the number of people with dementia in the UK is expected to increase to over one million by 2030 and over 1.6 million by 2050.
“Alzheimer’s Disease kicks in decades before the clinical presentation. So, we want to be looking after our brains right now, not waiting till the symptoms present themselves.
Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that is much more common in women, particularly because we lose the oestrogen benefits as we enter perimenopause and menopause. As we lose our oestrogen levels, we lose this neuro-protective effect on the brain.
There are two key nutrients that we need to ensure we’re protecting our brain health. Omega-3 and B Vitamins are a power couple and work together to reduce the risk of neurodegeneration.
Omega-3 fatty acids + B Vitamins
Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for the optimal functioning of the brain and protecting against neurodegeneration. Yet, latest research shows that you need to ensure you’re getting enough B Vitamins at the same time. B vitamins are incredibly important for the brain, and they work with Omega-3 to reduce cognitive decline and brain shrinkage.
A placebo-controlled, randomised trial saw that people who took omega-3s plus B Vitamins saw a 73% slowing of brain shrinkage, which is hugely significant. No dementia medication available at this point has the same benefit as this particular duo – omega-3s and B Vitamins.
How Omega-3s help
Omega-3s EPA and DHA are anti-inflammatory. They are found in wild fish, algae and the British grown ahiflower and they are an important fat for our health and wellbeing as well as balancing out inflammation. In opposition, omega-6, which is pro-inflammatory and found in high abundance in modern diets, should be consumed as a one-to-one ratio with omega-3. yet, with our diets relying on ultra processed food, the ratio is more like 26:1 Omega-6 to omega-3.
Reducing Omega-6 fatty acids from sunflower oil, rapeseed oil and deep fat fried- foods while increasing your omega-3s can help to reduce inflammation and create a healthy, robust immune system.
However, it is important to get a high-quality omega-3 fatty acid that contains a good ratio of EPA and DHA.
Oily fish or fish oil supplements are a super source of EPA and DHA or oily fish. Tinned sardines are a super food source. Sardines in tomato sauce on some low carb bread is a fantastic way of getting your oily fish, your EPA, your DHA and your protein.
The government recommends one portion of oily fish a week. That is nowhere near enough to be getting the essential omega-3s our brain needs, especially for women as we get to perimenopausal age, when we are more susceptible to inflammation.
We need these essential fatty acids to reduce our inflammatory levels, for brain function, for immune function, for skin health and to have glossy, shiny hair – but particularly for protecting our brain from neurodegeneration.
When choosing a fish oil, forgo the cheap supermarket brands with their often rancid and oxidised fish oils (which can do more harm than good) and choose a wild Alaskan fish oil. Alaskan waters are the cleanest and its fisheries the most sustainably managed. Let’s be honest our seas are polluted with there’s no getting away from that. So it’s important to find the best, cleanest source that you can.
That’s why I am a big fan of Wiley’s Peak EPA, which has a high dose of 1000 mg of fish oil in each capsule. That’s four times stronger than many brands. If you look at supermarket or even high street chain health shops brands, look at the content to see how much fish oil you’re getting per capsule. Often, it’ll be about 280-300 mgs which is nowhere near enough. Also, you need to consider where that fish is coming from. Is it sustainably caught? We need to be thinking about planetary health.
Good food sources of B vitamins include eggs, liver, salmon, great sources of B. And also recommend nutritional yeast, which is a great vegan source. One issue with B vitamins is that some people are not good at activating B vitamins. Essentially, B vitamins need to be bioavailable for the body. For that reason, the brand I recommend is Terra Nova, which offers methylated B vitamins, meaning they are more easily absorbed and your body doesn’t have to do the work for you.
Homocysteine is an amino acid found in the blood and associated with Alzheimer’s. B Vitamins break down homocysteine to create other chemicals your body needs. Studies showed a link between high homocysteine levels and brain shrinkage. There was less brain shrinkage than when taking a placebo.
Blood sugars are incredibly important for protecting us against Alzheimer’s.
Reducing high blood sugars. Hyperglycaemia, high blood sugars, increases systemic inflammation. Chronic, systemic inflammation, drives chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, depression, dementia, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. It leads to physical disability, frailty and premature mortality.
Our modern diets, packed with refined carbohydrates and sweetened foods, leads to chronically high blood sugars and increased inflammation which in the long run will cause stress to our cells and increase cellular ageing.
The steps we can take
Alzheimer’s Disease has many attributing factors and while genetics can give us our risk of predisposition, there are many positive steps we can take to reduce the risk.
Key steps include:
Optimum nutrient intake, including Omega-3 fatty acids and B-vitamins
Balancing blood sugars
Diet rich in antioxidants
A healthy gut