Alzheimer’s Disease and Nutrition
The market for medications to treat Alzheimer’s disease is estimated at $5.2 billion across eight countries in 2015. By 2021, the market value is projected to reach $11.3 billion. Increased disease prevalence is projected to be the key growth driver. The development of new medications will be a secondary driver.
Six drugs have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that temporarily improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease by increasing the amount of chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain. The effectiveness of these drugs varies from person to person.
However, none of the treatments available today for Alzheimer’s disease slows or stops the damage to neurons.
Many factors contribute to the difficulty of developing effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. These factors include the high cost of drug development, the relatively long time needed to observe disease progression in Alzheimer’s, and the structure of the brain, which is protected by the blood-brain barrier, through which few drugs can cross.
Proper nutrition can benefit those with Alzheimer’s disease. Poor nutrition can complicate dementia. Provide a balanced diet with a variety of foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods). Limit foods with saturated fat to help keep cholesterol levels down. Go light on fats that are bad for heart health, such as butter, solid shortening, lard and fatty cuts of meats.
Fats from avocados and fish are often beneficial, however. Limit refined sugars from processed foods. You can treat a sweet tooth with fruit, honey or juice-sweetened baked goods.
In the later-stages of Alzheimer’s disease, weight loss can be a problem, so adding sugar to foods might help. Limit salt consumption to manage blood pressure. Use more spices and herbs to season food.
As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, loss of appetite and weight loss may become concerns. Add supplements between meals to add calories. Staying hydrated also can be a problem. Encourage small cups of water and other liquids throughout the day. Offer foods with high water content, such as fruit, vegetables, soup, ice cream and smoothies.
Although the outlook for treatments is bleak, having an early diagnosis helps families plan for the future, make living arrangements, take care of financial and legal matters, and develop support networks. Plus, beginning treatment for Alzheimer’s disease can help preserve function.
However, there have been some breakthroughs that offer hope in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease. Drugs known as anti-TNF blockers, already in use as a powerful therapy for rheumatoid arthritis, could offer hope against Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists in the U.S. showed that people with arthritis who take these drugs have a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Some scientists are studying whether turmeric, magnesium, folic acid and Vitamin D3 are effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. The immune-boosting effects of vitamin D3 in combination with curcumin (found in turmeric), seems to help purge some of the protein buildup in the brain. Both vitamin D and curcumin have shown efficacy against Alzheimer’s disease. They might accomplish even more when used in combination. Alpha-lipoic acid supplements also show efficacy when treating Alzheimer’s disease.
Other Alzheimer’s disease studies indicate that foods rich in vitamin B12 and Omega 3 fats might lower your risk of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease. Coconut oil, walnut oil and blueberries also appear to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
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