Are there foods that reduce risk of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease?

11 answers | Last updated: Oct 24, 2016
Francisca asked...

What food, fruit or vegetable would prevent Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease?

Expert Answers

Beth Reardon, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is senior food and nutrition editor and the director of integrative nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet.

The foods we eat are our number one weapon in disease prevention and influence how well we age both physically and mentally. The risk of developing age related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's may be reduced by diets that are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Once again the plant based Mediterranean diet is a great example of a pattern of eating associated with a decreased risk of many chronic illnesses including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. It is important to remember that there is no one super food that can accomplish this. The benefits come from the contributions of a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seafood rich in anti inflammatory properties that protect the brain. Animal studies suggest that compounds found in green tea, blueberries, spinach, and strawberries are helpful in slowing age related declines in brain function and behavior. In addition essential fats, particularly DHA, the omega - 3 fatty acid obtained either through a high grade fish oil supplement or cold water wild salmon, have been found to be protective against the formation of the amyloid plaque associated with Alzheimer's disease. So grab a plate and enjoy a beautiful grilled wild salmon filet served up with a gorgeous spinach salad, mixed berries and walnuts, dressed with a little extra virgin olive oil. Bon App├ętit!

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

Thanks, very helpful

Stephenie answered...

Mom was diagnosed with diabetes over 25 years ago with her being Italian this diet has done wonders for the diabetes and keeping the complication of diabetes at bay. Mom is in a Nursing home and the diet is killing her they feed her High carbs low fat diet subsituted with protein drinks, Mom has been diagnosed with lewy body dementia the diet which she is eating is keeping blood sugars over 180mg/dl she is taking insulin and oral meds. I tried to complain about this diet and the American Diabetes has forwarded literature to the Nursing home hoping that it would change the diet but it has not. folks there don't get much fruit and vegetables so a lot of declining health. What can I do???

Ladydawn answered...

Stephenie, you've raised a really significant issue - why are nursing homes unable to provide proper nutrition? Cost? Attitude? Will they blame it on the patient?

Forwarding a few brochures is a start but it is not nearly aggressive enough. Which raises the question of why the reticence to become involved. Perhaps the American Diabetes Association needs more documentation. I would suggest contacting the Alzheimer's Association as well. Get the printed menu of meals and snacks for a week and send them along with a repeat complaint to the Diabetes Assoc. Ask them what they suggest since this nursing home allows potentially killer diets.

Although it is easy to say and much more difficult to do, start shopping again for a nursing care facility.

If you feel remotely comfortable doing so, speak to other families with loved ones at this nursing home. Tell them what you know, what you think and provide the nutrition literature. Perhaps with more support, as a group you can effect a change.

If you have the signed release, speak to her doctors about the situation. Doctors should be informed and perhaps might be able to provide additional leverage for change.

You might want to get hold of a copy of the 'Manual of dietetic practice' 4th edition, edited by Birony Thomas and Jacki Bishop. One argument you will hear from the nursing home is that when there isn't enough (junk) sugar that people won't eat and thereby lose weight. Be prepared to counter that argument/

Cornflower answered...

try eating a portion of broad (fava) beans every day, they contain levadopa which is good for parkinsons disease.

Babyjean answered...

if you take some parkinsons meds. you can't eat fava beans.

Ladydawn answered...

My sister worked one summer at a camp for diabetic children. She was appalled at the improper diabetic nutrition served for both the meals and snacks served there. She ultimately became ill. Although she is not diabetic we were raised with an old age onset grandfather so we are familiar with healthy diets.

Her doctor explained to her that her illness was directly related to the nutritionaly deficient diet the camp diet presented both to her, the rest of the staff and to the diabetic campers. She was able to make corrections by bringing in her own supplements but her suggestions to the people running the camp fell on deaf ears. They were not concerned that their campers were suffering because these children would leave after 2 weeks although the staff remained all summer.

Not all nursing homes are at fault here, they have to meet a variety of dietary needs: low sodium diets, low sugar diets, softer diets, use of thickening agents, liquid diets, feeding tube diets. They are required to offer selections to the patients who may make wrong choices. But that is no excuse for permitting unhealthy nutrition.

Medicare makes limited requirements on their Nursing Home Checklist: Choice of food at meals, weight monitoring, plenty of water for hydration at meals and in-between. Nutritious snacks available, socialization at meal times, food must both look and smell good and be served at proper temperature, sufficient staff to assist patients.

Therefore it is incumbent upon family members to understand the type of diet which is important to the patient and to provide written instructions for the patient file.

It is also important to have the ability to speak to the doctors and nutritionists on behalf of the patient.

Stephenie described the healthy diet her mother had eaten all her life until admittance to the nursing home. There an unbalanced diet did far more harm than good. Stephanie does not want the staff to be upset with her and take retribution upon her mother. However, as she notes, the diet is killing her mother.

One way to begin is to have a dietary review by an outside and respected nutritionist. Those recommendations should be reviewed by her mother's neurologist and then presented to the nursing home.

If this is not the only nursing home in the area, begin interviewing other facilities.

There are so many potential issues at nursing homes that the actual diet becomes of lesser importance. And that should not be the case.

Given a choice, my husband who has Parkinson's would eat all the wrong foods at the wrong time. Although fava beans might seem to be a logical choice, I can't include it because there is no standardized way of determining the l-dopa content of a food product. He does get mucuna pruriens in a standardized dose along with 1/2 Sinemet (for the carbidopa) 2x a day. No protein meals accompany this medication. I also have to be careful of when he takes his vitamin B complex for the same reason. He just want certain foods when he wants them but that will not happen with this caregiver. Much more difficult in a nursing home setting.

We are now looking critically at the foods served in schools, why not at the other end of the spectrum?

Alexjes2 answered...

Oversight measures are our customary responses in situations like this. That's fine but does it promote? How many ways can be developed and added that are fun and even exciting? How about a monthly cooking contest that challenges related organizations and/or departments? It could have a year-end winner, lots of POSITIVE acknowledgement. j

Policy makers at every level could get into this. Along with all other stake-holders.j

France's daughter answered...

very helpful, but i have a mother who refuses all the good things i provide. thank god she loves her clinical ensure

Stephenie answered...

All your answers are helpful I am not able to do any changes for Mom I have been blocked again from seeing Mom. You are correct diet is so important and I understand cost vs needs of all concern. But the FDA should get involved to make things better no matter what the cuts have been to medicare. These folks need the proper care and I feel the Government needs to regulate these facilities better I am sure politics play a big role in fundings to the Nursing Homes as well as Hospitals. These diets are cost effective. Not for human consumption (healthy diet). Stephenie

I feel their rights are being violated. Shame Politics plays a role in this. Amazing (money talks BS walks).

Ladydawn answered...

I guess the real question is what does your mother like to eat? If she likes Ensure, how about a fruit smoothie with the high anti-oxidants: blueberries for example.

Are you sure that part of this problem isn't dentition? Important to correct if it is. If it isn't and she is not having issues with constipation or swallowing, perhaps it is time to play hardball.

I know that part of the issues caused by my husband's dementia are a reversion to a time in his life when his father protected him from responsibility for his own actions. In other words, my husband was a very spoiled toddler. His mother was not the spoiler; he was a daddy's boy (first-born when no children were expected at all). after all these years, he is still trying to get the mother-figure to cater to his wishes and simply baby him. The demands are constant.

Sometimes a bit of tough love helps keep the caretaker sanity. If you want this, than this...will happen.

Perhaps your mother's sense of taste has changed. Try experimenting with flavors first. Don't get elaborate - keep it basic. What appeals to her palate? Can that flavor be incorporated into an easy to prepare and eat dish?

My husband loves breakfast sausage - one very small pattie makes him happy enough to eat the rest of a nutritious breakfast. I prepare simple meals ahead because he's lost much of his senses of smell and taste that the reheating doesn't matter; the process is easier for me. He can taste 'hot' so there is a variety of hot seasoning.

The reward for behaving and not fussing is dessert. Chocolate pudding in very small portions does the job nicely.

I think there comes a point when we do the best we can, figure out if there are reasons for not eating certain foods and finding the best way to prepare that food as well as the leverage and not worry as much.

I don't have a juicer nor do I intend to get one at this point, so I'm serving V8-fusion in the morning with powered meds mixed in. As long as there are ice cubes in the juice, he'll drink it.