Alzheimer's disease is one of the most trying illnesses that affects seniors, burdening families and the U.S. healthcare system. According to the Alzheimer's Association, one in eight older Americans has the disease, which is the sixth-leading cause of death in the country. As of yet, there is no cure. However grim these statistics are, an influx of funding through the National Alzheimer's Project Act has allowed scientists to make great strides in the fight against the condition.
Several recent studies offer some tangible - and edible - advice that may help senior care providers or those offering Alzheimer's care to better support an older adult who has this disease. Vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, green tea and red wine extracts have all been found to play a role in the treatment of Alzheimer's.
The "sunshine vitamin" that can be found in foods like salmon, sardines, milk and eggs was proven to assist the immune system in the process of clearing the brain of amyloid-beta plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. In a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, researchers discovered vitamin D3 regulates key genes and signaling networks that boost the immune system's ability to clear these harmful plaques from the brain.
Omega-3 fatty acids
The same study showed that omega-3 fatty acid DHA can also help clear these plaques because of the way it reduces inflammation and promotes the absorption of amyloid-beta plaques, instead of allowing them to build up. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon, scallops, shrimp and tofu, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Green tea has long been lauded for its antioxidant properties, and now a study from the University of Leeds suggests it could disrupt a critical step in the development of Alzheimer's disease. The study, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, determined that purified green tea extracts were effective in interrupting the process by which harmful amyloid plaques can build up and latch onto brain cells, causing the cognitive symptoms of the disease.
Purified resveratrol extracts from red wine had the same effect as the green tea extracts, the study found. Researchers are now exploring whether these extracts could be used in drugs to target Alzheimer's disease. Until then, a cup of green tea or a glass of red wine might offer good sources of these powerful antioxidants.