Dietary intake of antioxidants from food sources may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Oxidative damage to lipid membranes can disrupt normal neuronal functioning, leading to the formation of amyloid plaques and to neuronal cell death. Dietary intake of antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, can interrupt this process by inhibiting the production of free radicals.
A major population-based study at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands followed 5,395 Dutch men and women who were over 55 and free of dementia at the outset of the study. Researchers followed the participants for six years, during which time dietary assessments were performed.
A lower risk of AD was observed in participants who had a higher intake of the antioxidants vitamins C and E from their food. The reduced risk of AD correlated only with whole foods; those whose higher vitamin C and E intake came from supplements did not have the same reduced risk.
A study at St Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago looked the effects of antioxidants on the risk for AD. The study followed 815 Chicago residents for 4 years. Participants were men and women, aged 65 years and older. Those individuals consuming higher amounts of vitamin E in their food (not from supplements alone) had a reduced risk of both cognitive decline and AD.
Blueberries are one of the most powerful antioxidants. A study at National Institutes of Health in Baltimore, Maryland found that consuming blueberries can reduce the severity of AD and other cognitive disorders. The researchers randomly assigned young male rat pups to a diet containing 2% blueberry extract or a control diet for eight weeks. The scientists then replicated the neuronal loss experienced by people suffering a neurodegenerative disease. The rat pups fed a blueberry supplemented diet had enhanced behavioral performance, experienced significantly less brain cell loss, and had more viable brain cells following oxidative stress.
A study at the University of Barcelona in Spain also used blueberries to reverse age-related deficits in neuronal damage in rats. The study’s authors determined that the polyphenolic compounds in blueberries cross the blood brain barrier and work in various brain regions important for learning and memory.
Another study of rat pups eating blueberries was so encouraging that the researchers concluded, “Thus, our data indicates for the first time that it may be possible to overcome genetic predispositions to Alzheimer disease through diet.”