These foods can harm the brain

A healthy diet protects against vascular deposits and helps prevent mental decline. Which foods protect memory and which are harmful.

Our brain needs a lot of energy to work properly. For this reason, a balanced and nutritious diet is essential. Foods that are very fatty or sugary, on the other hand, damage mental performance. The consequences are difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness. Which foods protect your memory and which ones harm you.

What happens when you have dementia?

With dementia, the ability to concentrate and memory decrease over time. Temporal and spatial orientation also becomes worse. Those affected increasingly need help to be able to cope with their everyday lives. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. In Alzheimer’s disease, brain cells increasingly die. The deposition of plaques (beta-amyloid proteins and tau proteins) and a deficiency of the messenger substance acetylcholine are suspected to be the trigger.

Furthermore, circulatory disorders in the brain can be the cause of dementia. Doctors then speak of vascular dementia. Mixed forms of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia are also possible. Brain injuries, brain tumors and Parkinson’s disease can also cause dementia.

Alzheimer’s dementia: What are the risk factors?

With increasing age, the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia increases. Even if the exact causes of the disease are still unclear, there are indications of certain influencing factors that can increase the individual risk. The factors that cannot be influenced include age, genes and female gender. Women have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s than men. Hormonal factors, such as the drop in estrogen levels during menopause, are suspected to be the cause.

The variables that can largely be influenced, prevented or treated include:

  • Overweight
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • Lack of exercise
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • Smoke
  • Head injuries
  • Fine dust pollution
  • lack of education
  • limited hearing ability
  • depressions
  • Lack of social contacts

” Sleep problems are currently being discussed as a further risk factor . The body regenerates during sleep and breaks down amyloid plaques in the deep sleep phase, which play a role in Alzheimer’s dementia. Further research is necessary,” says Dr. Linda Thienpont, Head of the Science Department of the Alzheimer Research Initiative eV

A healthy diet keeps the brain fit longer

The first-mentioned risk factors for Alzheimer’s dementia in particular are closely related to lifestyle. It therefore stands to reason that a healthy diet, sufficient exercise and avoiding “stimulants” such as alcohol and smoking can help reduce your own risk of dementia – and an unhealthy lifestyle, on the other hand, increases the risk of dementia. But which diet is good for the brain – and which is harmful?

Nutrition and dementia: Mediterranean cuisine could protect

There are no single foods that can cause dementia. Likewise, there are no specific foods or even a special dementia diet that could reliably prevent dementia. Nevertheless, research shows that a healthy diet in general can help reduce one’s risk of dementia.

In this context, dementia experts emphasize the Mediterranean cuisine, i.e. the Mediterranean diet with lots of vegetables and fruit, salads, legumes and nuts, vegetable oils such as olive oil, fresh herbs, whole grain products and more fish than meat.

For example, a study as part of the DELCODE study by the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) suggests that a Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of dementia.

Researchers at the DZNE led by Professor Michael Wagner, working group leader at the DZNE and senior psychologist at the memory clinic at the University Hospital of Bonn, have found evidence that a more Mediterranean dietary pattern with a relatively higher consumption of vegetables, legumes, fruit, grains, fish and unsaturated fatty acids such as olive oil, possibly can protect against protein deposits in the brain and brain atrophy. Dairy products, red meat and saturated fat are only consumed to a limited extent in the Mediterranean diet.

Which foods damage the brain?

Thienpont also confirms that animal products such as red meat and fatty dairy products, as well as high sugar consumption and the consumption of highly processed foods, can damage the brain: “All of these foods promote obesity, increase the risk of diabetes, and can damage the blood vessels and cardiovascular system diseases – which increases the risk of Alzheimer’s. Animal products are also rich in cholesterol, which also promotes vascular deposits,” says the expert.

Smoking and alcohol: two important risk factors

“Stimulants” such as smoking and alcohol are also harmful. As a cell toxin, alcohol has a damaging effect on brain cells and also promotes inflammatory reactions in the brain. Smoking is also damaging and impairs the oxygen and nutrient supply to the brain. “To function, the brain needs oxygen and nutrients, which the heart pumps to the brain via the bloodstream. Anything that harms the heart and blood vessels ultimately also harms the brain,” emphasizes Thienpont.

Start dementia prevention early

The expert advises changing your diet early on and avoiding alcohol and smoking. “If nerve cells are destroyed, this cannot be reversed. Although the brain is fundamentally able to form new nerve cells, but only to a small extent. The aim should be to protect the nerve cells in the brain as best as possible,” says Thienpont. “A healthy diet based on the Mediterranean diet is an important step.”

At the same time, a diet based on Mediterranean cuisine supplies the body with healthy proteins, carbohydrates and fats as well as important micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, trace elements and secondary plant substances. “A sufficient and regular supply of nutrients is important. The brain needs around 20 percent of our energy turnover. Only if it is well supplied can it work well – and stay healthy. Since the brain cannot store nutrients, it needs regular replenishment,” says the Expert.

The brain needs movement

At the same time, Thienpont emphasizes the importance of exercise in preventing dementia. Exercise helps to lose excess weight, regulates blood fat and blood sugar levels, lowers cholesterol levels, supports the body’s oxygen supply and can relieve inflammation. This means that sport is not only an important component in counteracting cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, but also reduces the risk of dementia.

“It’s important that exercise is enjoyable and is adapted to the physical situation. It doesn’t have to be high-performance sport. Just going for a walk every day and getting as much exercises possible in everyday life has a positive effect,” says Thienpont.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *