Submit Referral
Submit Referral

4 min read

Diet For Alzheimer’s Patients: Foods To Eat & Avoid

Featured Image

The science behind what foods to eat and avoid so patients and their caregivers can feel empowered to make the healthiest choices.


Alzheimer’s disease — the most common cause of dementia — is a neurodegenerative disease that affects a person’s memory and thinking skills. It causes physical changes to the brain cells, resulting in the buildup of amyloid plaques and bundles of fibers called neurofibrillary tangles (i.e. abnormal bundles of tau proteins).

These plaques and tangles in the brain result in a loss of connections between neurons. Since the neurons are responsible for transmitting messages as they die, Alzheimer's patients experience memory loss, confusion, and difficulty carrying out tasks. 

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, a healthy diet can help support a patient’s brain and body. Below, we dive into the science behind what foods to eat and avoid so patients and their caregivers can feel empowered to make the healthiest choices.

The best diet for Alzheimer’s patients 

MIND diet is an acronym for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It is a mix of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). The focus: food choices that lower blood pressure and have been proven to benefit brain health. 

It focuses on plant-based foods with a reduced consumption of animal products, as well as foods rich in saturated fat. The emphasis is on plants, with a high consumption of berries and green leafy vegetables.

According to research conducted on over 900 dementia-free older adults, it was found that following the MIND diet resulted in a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and a slower rate of cognitive decline. Also, an intensive analysis of the MIND diet and other factors found that adhering to it for about 4.5 years reduced the rate of Alzheimer's disease by 53% compared to when it wasn’t adhered to.

One of the reasons why the MIND diet has so many benefits for Alzheimer’s patients is the rich antioxidants in the food groups recommended. The antioxidants in berries and the vitamin E in olive oil, leafy greens, avocados, and nuts can help protect the brain from oxidative stress, which refers to the imbalance between the production of antioxidant defenses and free radicals. Long-term exposure to oxidative stress can result in cell damage, especially in the brain. 

Another reason is their anti-inflammatory effect. While inflammation is the body’s natural response to infections and injuries, it can be harmful in excess. When not properly regulated, inflammation can contribute to chronic disease. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, and their consumption is associated with slower loss of brain function. 

There are several brain-healthy food groups included in the MIND diet: 

Green Leafy Vegetables

Vegetables like kale, spinach, collard greens, and lettuce help with age-related cognitive decline. They help lower inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s recommended that, while on this diet, patients consume greater than or equal to 6 servings of leafy green vegetables per week. 

Nuts

Cashews, almonds, and pistachios are great snacks for the brain because they contain fiber, antioxidants, and healthy fats. On this diet, Alzheimer’s patients should consume greater than or equal to 5 servings of nuts per week. 

Berries

According to recent studies, consuming berries such as blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries can prevent cognitive aging in women by up to 2.5 years. Consuming more than or equal to 2 servings of berries per week is recommended. 

Beans

Beans such as black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans are low in calories and fat and high in protein and fiber. It’s suggested that they have more than 3 servings per week.

Whole grains
 
Grains like brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain pasta, and quinoa are great for the brain. The MIND diet recommends the consumption of more than or equal to 3 servings of whole grains per day.

Fish

Fish included on the MIND diet are salmon, tuna, and trout, all of which contain healthy fats. Researchers found that eating fish at least once a week helps protect brain function.

Poultry 

Poultry like chicken, turkey, and eggs are healthy brain foods. Consumption of eggs, for example, is associated with better performance in memory function and verbal fluency. Also, eggs in the diet result in better performance in cognitive tests. Patients are to consume more than or equal to 2 servings of poultry per week.

Olive oil

A study found that using olive oil as your primary oil at home provides better protection against cognitive decline and other risk factors like obesity and heart disease.

A note on the Mediterranean diet 

Closely related to MIND, the Mediterranean diet focuses on the traditional foods of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and is celebrated as a long-term approach to healthy eating. It emphasizes the consumption of nuts and seeds, whole grains, fruits, legumes, and vegetables.  

In a 2018 study, researchers found that those who followed this diet had thicker cortical brain regions (in Alzheimer’s patients, these brain regions shrink). Also, Alzhiemer’s patients have a higher level of beta-amyloid protein and lower glucose metabolism, but following the Mediterranean diet may result in higher glucose metabolism and lower levels of beta-amyloid protein.

A new study, which examined about 600 brains of older people who died at 91, found that people who stuck to either the Mediterranean or MIND diet had less evidence of pathologies like tau tangles and amyloid plaques. 

Foods that should be avoided with Alzheimer’s

The MIND diet specifically limits some foods, including:

  • Red meat
  • Butter and margarine
  • Cheese
  • Pastries and sweets
  • Fried or fast food

It’s important to avoid a high-fat diet with excess saturated fatty acids (SFA) and cholesterol, as they can contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Also, this type of diet is related to hyper-insulinemia, which may result in a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Interested in learning more about Alzheimer’s treatment at Local Infusion?

On January 6, 2023, Leqembi received full FDA approval through the Accelerated Approval pathway for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, making it one of the few infusions that can be used for this disease. As a recently authorized medication, Leqembi may not be widely available yet since many facilities, particularly those that don’t specialize in infusion therapy, often take longer to add a new drug into their formulary. However, Local Infusion is ready to offer it in all of its locations once a patient is referred. 

READ MORE: Leqembi (Lecanemab) Is Now Approved For Alzheimer’s Treatment: What To Know

Local Infusion offers modern, state-of-the-art centers with private suites, designed with your comfort in mind.

From questions on what to expect in your first treatment, to providing financial guidance and support, a dedicated Infusion Guide works with you and your physician to provide clear answers and assistance every step of the way. Plus, we handle everything having to do with prior authorization.

We’ll reach out within hours of a physician referral and get you digitally on board in less than two minutes, allowing our staff more time to focus on you.

Should you have questions regarding pricing and insurance, our team will work with you to provide financial assistance support and minimize costs, providing a simple and stress-free experience.

Guide To Gout Diet: Foods To Eat and Avoid

What foods to eat and avoid to prevent uric acid buildup, ease symptoms, reduce flare-ups, and improve quality of life. 

Read More

How Payers Benefit From A Better Patient & Provider Experience

A conversation with Tom Roark, VP of Payer Strategy and Contracting at Local Infusion. 

Read More

5 MS-Friendly Yoga Studios In & Around Augusta, Maine

Yoga studios in Maine with practices gentle enough for MS patients: hatha, chair, restorative, yin, and gentle yoga. 

Read More