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Avoid Saturated Fats, Trans Fats

There are no guarantees in the battle against neurodegenerative disease. There are no vaccines and no cures, which is why we can’t afford to overlook the proven effects of smart nutrition, including beneficial oils.

The food and water that we consume can help prevent and treat neurodegenerative disease. High cholesterol increases the risk by more than 70 percent, while diabetes and high blood pressure carry a 30-40 percent greater risk. Individuals who are overweight before age 65 face a 40 percent greater risk for developing neurodegenerative disease.

Animal products are highly correlated with Alzheimer’s disease. 

The prospective Chicago Health and Aging Project reported that persons consuming the most saturated fat (compared with the least) had more than twice the risk of developing AD, with similar findings for trans fats. Saturated fat is particularly abundant in dairy products and meat. Trans fats are found in many snack foods and, in traces, in dairy products. Other studies implicate saturated fats in the cognitive decline that precedes AD. Since the pathology of Parkinson’s disease parallels that of AD (different regions of the brain), we can draw similar conclusions about the causation of Parkinson’s disease.

The good news is that beneficial compoundss found in foods penetrate the blood-brain barrier to  ease the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and other forms of neurodegenerative disease. Unfortunately, pharmaceutical treatments are not as effective as nutritional therapy, yet. But hope is on the horizon with the new wave of antibody therapies.

The Mediterranean diet is one of the most popular plant-based diets for mental health. It promotes plants and foods that are low on bad cholesterol, such as legumes, nuts, wheat, fruits and veggies. It recommends replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil. It also reduces salt and red meat. The DASH and Flexitarian diets are also popular. Part of the equation is cutting consumption of processed meat, processed foods, sugary drinks and desserts. Green leafy vegetables also help prevent dementia. Eating more apples, bananas and oranges also can help prevent neurodegenerative disease.

Chang Y. Lee, Cornell professor and chair of food science and technology exposed neurons to apple, banana and orange extracts. He found that the fruits’ antioxidants, specifically the phenolic phytochemicals, prevented oxidative stress-induced toxicity in neurons.

Nutritional Deficiency

Patients with neurodegenerative disease have lower blood levels of vitamin E when compared with healthy persons. While each form shows different biological properties that may offer neuroprotective effects in AD, a controlled clinical trial of high-dose vitamin E found a significant benefit for AD patients.

Studies found that blood levels of vitamin C were lower in patients with both mild cognitive impairment and AD, when compared with control subjects. In addition, individuals with higher vitamin C intake may have slower rates of cognitive decline than do persons with low intakes, thereby raising the possibility that long-term consumption of diets high in vitamin C-containing foods can reduce the risk for AD. One reason is because vitamin C promotes plasticity of blood vessels and improves blood flow to the brain.

AD patients also have significantly lower blood levels of vitamins A, B12 and folate and non-significantly lower levels of vitamin D and zinc when compared with individuals without AD. Similar results were found even in AD patients who were not considered malnourished. Given the large number of nutrients AD patients are lacking, a multiple vitamin supplement may be of benefit, provided it omits iron and copper. 

Oxidative stress and inflammation are common in Alzheimer’s disease. Natural compounds found in plants and their oil derivatives can make a difference in the battle for our brains. For those seeking treatment for an existing disease, these oils and other nutrients can improve the quality of life. 

Beneficial Oils

Olive Oil

Studies indicate that a diet rich in extra virgin olive oil prevents the accumulation of tau—a toxic protein associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other forms of prion disease. Even small amounts of olive oil appeared to be beneficial.

According to new research, olive oil can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer and more. It also can help improve brain function in those who have neurodegenerative disease.

Since 1990, researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that those who consumed olive oil daily reduced their risk of death from neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease by 29 percent.

extra virgin olive oil prevents Alzheimer's disease

“Our findings demonstrate that extra virgin olive oil improves synaptic activity, short‐term plasticity, and memory while decreasing tau neuropathology,” said Dr. Domenico Praticò, a professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and the Center for Translational Medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. “These results strengthen the healthful benefits of extra virgin olive oil and further support the therapeutic potential of this natural product not only for Alzheimer’s disease but also for primary tauopathies.”

EVOO is rich in polyphenols—powerful antioxidant compounds that benefit the heart and the brain, while fighting cancer. Extra virgin olive oil contains more phenols than refined olive oil. The extra virgin olive oil treatment improved autophagy—the brain cells’ ability to eliminate toxic waste. It also helped maintain the integrity of the synapses, which connect neurons.

Olive oil is a basic ingredient of the Mediterranean diet. Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) is extracted without using high heat or certain chemicals, maintaining the oil’s naturally occurring phenols. EVOO contains more than 30 different phenolic compounds, a group of phytochemicals with anti-inflammatory and blood-vessel-expanding actions.

It is clear that constant consumption of the traditional Mediterranean diet not only hinders neuroinflammation and oxidative stress but also improves the immune function. The antioxidant activities of olive oil are attributed to the presence of tyrosol, oleuropein, oleocanthal, and hydroxytyrosol. Oleocanthal is a phytochemical that appears to inhibit the fibrillization of tau protein.

Marta Guasch-Ferré, a research scientist in the nutrition department at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, recommends that people consume 3-4 tablespoons daily. In addition to the nutritional benefits associated with olive oil, the practice helps reduce the intake of butter, mayonnaise and other animal fats.

“We need an overall dietary pattern that is full of plant-based food including fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, healthy fats such as olive oil or nuts, and moderate protein intake,” Guasch-Ferré said. 

EVOO contains monounsaturated fats and antioxidants that may help protect the brain from damage and support cognitive function. Olive oil also shines for its heart-health benefits. EVOO contains higher amounts of healthful monounsaturated fats compared with other oils. According to MedlinePlus, monounsaturated fat can help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels when used to replace saturated fats. Research found that a Mediterranean diet enriched with 4 tablespoons of virgin olive oil per day helped improve HDL (good) cholesterol.

Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseed oil is an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines also contain other forms of omega-3s.

In addition to their cardio benefits, omega-3s may reduce inflammation, thus lowering your risk for certain types of cancer, according to MD Anderson Cancer Center. Flaxseed oil in particular may help reduce symptoms of arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Flaxseed oil also contains omega-6 fatty acids, which are also important for your health, per Mount Sinai. One study found that higher levels of linolenic acid (the most common omega-6 fatty acid) were linked to lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and early death.

Be sure to balance your intake of omega-3s and omega-6s.

Don’t heat this oil, as doing so can disrupt the fatty acid content. Use it in cold dishes like smoothies and salads. 

Walnuts & Walnut Oil

A walnut-enriched diet every day may help reduce the risk, delay the onset, slow the progression of, or prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

“Our study adds to the growing body of research that demonstrates the protective effects of walnuts on cognitive functioning,” said Indian-origin researcher Abha Chauhan.

The researchers found significant improvement in learning skills, memory, reducing anxiety and motor development in mice fed a walnut-enriched diet. The high antioxidant content of walnuts (3.7 mmol/ounce) may have been a contributing factor in protecting the mouse’s brain from the degeneration typically seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

Walnuts prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease

Walnuts also contain numerous vitamins and minerals and are the only nut that contains a significant source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, 2.5 grams per ounce), an omega-3 fatty acid with heart and brain-health benefits. The researchers also suggest that ALA may have played a role in improving the behavioral symptoms seen in the study. Another study found that people who had high levels of omega-3s in their red blood cells experienced better cognitive function in midlife. 

Walnuts significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia.

Walnut oil is unrefined and has a very low smoke point, so it isn’t for cooking. Keep it refrigerated.

Avocado & Avocado Oil

Avocados and avocado oil are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3s. One review found that avocado oil has excellent nutritional value at low and high temperatures. Avocado oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil, so it is better for higher-heat cooking. It can be used for stir-frying, sautéing, or searing. Its neutral flavor makes it ideal for baking.

Sesame Seed Oil

Sesame oil is another polyunsaturated fat. One review notes that sesame oil has known anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, potentially helping lower the odds of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fat and other substances in the artery walls that causes these vessels to narrow and raises blood pressure. It has a high smoke point, which makes it good for high-heat cooking like stir-frying, but it does have a strong flavor that imparts a sweet, nutty flavor to dishes.

Grapeseed Oil

Grapeseed oil is low in saturated fat and has a high smoke point, which makes it a healthy choice for all kinds of cooking and grilling. Like flaxseed oil, grapeseed oil contains omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Grapeseed oil also contains vitamin E, which acts like an antioxidant to help fight free radicals and is a key vitamin for immune system support. According to the USDA, 1 tbsp of grapeseed oil is an excellent source of vitamin E.

Sunflower Seeds & Oil

Sunflower oil is high in unsaturated fats and low in saturated fat. Research shows that opting for sunflower oil rather than an oil high in saturated fat could lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Like grapeseed oil, 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil is an excellent source of vitamin E.

Canola Oil

Canola oil has only 1 gram of saturated fat in 1 tbsp and, like olive oil, is high in monounsaturated fat. It also contains high levels of polyunsaturated fat.

Still, some individuals have questioned the healthiness of canola oil. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, one concern centers around the solvent hexane, which is used to extract oil from rapeseed to make canola oil, and some people fear it may be toxic. However, only trace amounts are in the final oil. Another concern is the trans fat in canola oil — though Harvard says that the low amount of trans fat is no different from many other vegetable oils on the market.

Canola oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil and a neutral flavor, so it is better than olive oil for higher heat cooking, such as roasting and frying. Because it doesn’t have as much flavor as some other vegetable and seed oils, Warren advises against it for salad dressings and other dishes in which you want the oil to add some flavor.

Rapeseed Oil

The canolol from crude rapeseed, which is highly reduced in refined oil, is a good scavenger of alkyl peroxyl radicals. The radical scavenging characteristic of canolol is higher than that of other antioxidants such as quercetin, vitamin C, β-carotene, and α-tocopherol. The OOH radical scavenging ability of canolol has also been shown, which makes it a potential compound to prevent oxidative stress. 

Coconut oil

May improve brain function by supporting neuron strength, reducing inflammation, and mitigating oxidative stress. Ketones, which are formed by the conversion of medium-chain-triglycerides in specific foods, are energy sources for the brain and coconut oil is a rich source of ketones. The neuroprotective antioxidant activities of coconut oil have been attributed to its polyphenolic content, which is present in higher concentrations in virgin oils.Coconut oil is solid at room temperature. It is composed of about 90 percent saturated fat. 

This isn’t the same as the saturated fat found in red meat that clogs your arteries,” says Warren. Coconut oil has a high amount of medium-chain fatty acids, which are harder for the body to convert into stored fat. A separate study found that the oil significantly increased HDL cholesterol levels, although not all studies have come to this same conclusion.

Coconut oil may also raise your LDL cholesterol levels, according to another study, and that isn’t good news for your ticker. If you want to use coconut oil for cooking or baking, the Cleveland Clinic recommends doing so in moderation, within the recommended limits for saturated fat intake, and as part of a wider healthy diet.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

Inflammation is a common denominator among the diverse list of neurodegenerative diseases. Marijuana derivatives have attracted special interest as a way to prevent brain disease and a treatment. Cannabidiol (CBD), which lacks psychotropic effect, may represent a very promising agent with the highest prospect for neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties.

cannabidiol and Alzheimer's disease

Medical cannabis has a long history of use, starting in India, China and the Middle East about 6,000 years ago. It came to the West in the 1800s, where it was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia until the 1930s. Used for more than 100 ailments, cannabis was a favorite of our grandparents for cough remedies, analgesics, and tonics and was available over the counter at every local drugstore as well as companies such as Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Banned in 1937 via the Marijuana Tax Act, it was gradually removed from the pharmacopeia and research was prohibited.

In a 2006 study published in Molecular Pharmaceutics, a team of University of Connecticut researchers reported that cannabis “could be considerably better at suppressing the abnormal clumping of malformed proteins that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease than any currently approved prescription.” 

The research team predicted that cannabinoid-based medications “will be the new breakout medicine treatments of the near future.”

The U.S. government has held a medical patent for the marketing of cannabinoids as antioxidants or neuroprotective agents since 2003. The patent states that cannabinoids are “useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of a wide variety of oxidation associated diseases such as inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”

The anecdotal benefits of CBD-rich cannabis oil for CTE are well known among football players, boxers, and other professional athletes who are prone to head injuries.

Argan Oil

One of nature’s richest sources of essential fatty acids. It offers immune system support, cholesterol control, potential cancer-fighting properties, anti-aging effects, and wound healing. Research links argan oil to lower LDL cholesterol and better heart health, which promotes a healthy brain.

Fish Oil

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and the fish themselves play important roles in brain function and development. There are claims that fish oil can improve brain function in people with memory problems, such as those with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive impairments. Fish oil primarily contains two types of omega-3 fatty acids — EPA and DHA.

These two fatty acids are components of cell membranes and have powerful anti-inflammatory functions within the body. They are also well known for their critical roles in human development and heart health.

salmon and omega 3 fatty acids prevent Alzheimer's disease

The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are critical for normal brain function and development throughout all stages of life. EPA and DHA seem to have important roles in the developing baby’s brain. In fact, several studies have correlated pregnant women’s fish intake or fish oil use with higher scores for their children on tests of intelligence and brain function in early childhood.

These fatty acids are also vital for the maintenance of normal brain function throughout life. They are abundant in the cell membranes of brain cells, preserving cell membrane health and facilitating communication between brain cells. 

When animals are deprived of omega-3 fatty acids, the amount of DHA in their brains decreases, and they tend to experience deficits in learning and memory.

In older adults, lower levels of DHA in the blood have been associated with smaller brain size, a sign of accelerated brain aging. Get enough omega-3 fatty acids to avoid some of these detrimental effects on brain function and development.

In the human diet, EPA and DHA are almost exclusively found in fatty fish and fish oil. Because most people do not consume the recommended amounts of fish, many people likely fall short of getting enough EPA and DHA in their diets. The body can make EPA and DHA out of another omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is found in a number of food sources, such as walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, canola oil, soybeans and soybean oil.

However, humans can’t convert ALA to EPA and DHA very efficiently, with estimates reporting that less than 10 percent of the amount of ALA you consume is converted to EPA or DHA. Therefore, taking fish oil may be a good option, especially for those who don’t eat much fish but are still looking to gain some of the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil is a popular supplement extracted from fatty fish like sardines, anchovies, mackerel and salmon. Fish oil primarily contains two types of omega-3 fatty acids — eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are well known for their heart health and skin benefits. However, fish oil also has an incredible impact on the brain, especially when it comes to mild memory loss and depression.

Pomegranate Seed Oil

In a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers investigated the mild cognitive impairment (MCI) outcomes of pomegranate seed oil (PSO) treatments. The study revealed that participants consuming PSO display significantly better global cognition, memory, information processing, and executive functions than their MeDi-only counterparts. These findings highlight the use of PSO by people with MCI due to its safety, ease of availability, and cost-effectiveness compared to synthetic pharmaceutical interventions.

pomegranate seeds treat Alzheimer's disease

Pomegranates are rich in polyphenols and fatty acids with known anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. They have been used in traditional medicine for centuries. It can help prevent neurodegeneration and help reverse it.

Essential Oils

Essential oils (EO), derived from aromatic plants, have emerged as versatile compounds with many health benefits. Essential oils offer robust antioxidant activity, serving as scavengers of free radicals and contributing to cellular defense against oxidative stress. Essential oils have anti-inflammatory properties, modulating immune responses and mitigating inflammatory processes associated with various chronic diseases.

Some EOs may have neuroprotective effects and help with neuroinflammation and oxidative stress:

  • Pinus halepensis EO: May reduce acetylcholinesterase activity, which is linked to decreased Aβ aggregate formation;
  • Citrus bergamia EO: May help with oxidative damage and neuroinflammation in the hippocampus and frontal cortex;
  • Peppermint, rosemary, and cinnamon: A 2020 study found promising results with this blend for cognitive impairment; and
  • Peppermint, rosemary, and grapefruit: A 2020 study found promising results with this blend for cognitive impairment.

Avoid Palm Oil and Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Palm oil is composed of saturated fat and unsaturated fat. According to Harvard Health Publishing, it’s often used in processed foods in place of partially hydrogenated oils — and that’s not all bad, since it contains less saturated fat than butter and contains no trans fats.

Palm oil shouldn’t be used for cooking because it becomes carcinogenic when heated. People with diabetes should avoid sources of the fat like palm oil, according to the American Diabetes Association. Plus, palm oil production is linked with deforestation and human rights abuses.

People should avoid partially hydrogenated oils containing trans fatty acids. They help maintain a product’s shelf life, but they are detrimental to human health

For example, one study found that trans fats may actually assist in cell death, which could potentially explain why trans fats have been linked to cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

The primary source of unhealthy trans fats in a person’s diet is partially hydrogenated oil, which can be found in processed foods, according to the AHA. These artificial trans fats are created through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them solidify.

The FDA ruled that these fats are so bad for health that manufacturers had to remove all trans fats from their products by January 2020. You should remove partially hydrogenated oils from your diet, too. If you buy a food that has less than 0.5 g of trans fat, a company can label it 0 g of trans fat, according to the Mayo Clinic, and those small amounts of trans fat can quickly add up if you’re not careful. To see if a product contains trans fat, look for “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on the ingredient list.

prevent prion disease

There are proven strategies to help avert neurodegenerative disease, including smart nutrition, exercise and prion aversion. There is not a cure for prion disease, but smart nutrition can ease the symptoms. Smart nutrition also can help you and your family avert neurodegenerative disease. Preview and order the eBook now to defend yourself and your family.

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Avatar Gary Chandler

Author: Gary Chandler

Gary Chandler is a prion expert. He is the CEO of Crossbow Communications, author of several books and producer of documentaries about health and environmental issues around the world. Chandler is connecting the dots to the global surge in neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and other forms of prion disease.