In order to prevent cognitive decline and dementia, it’s important to watch what you don’t eat as much as what you do eat. Certain food and drinks have been associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline as well as different types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Excitotoxins: Aspartame and MSG
The role of neuroinflammation in neurodegenerative diseases has been well established. One of the primary exacerbatory sources of neuroinflammation is diet. Certain food additives are particularly problematic in this regard. Aspartame, the sweetener in NutraSweet, Equal, and thousands of consumer products, is a controversial food additive used to sweeten “diet” products artificially. The product has a long history of causing severe health problems. Along with MSG (monosodium glutamate) and MSG-like food additives, aspartame is in a class of compounds known as “excitotoxins.” These excitotoxins excite brain cells until they die. In other words, each serving of MSG or aspartame has the potential to cause a little bit of brain damage, which becomes cumulative and may eventually lead to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or other neurological diseases.
In his book Excitotoxins; The Taste that Kills, neurosurgeon Russell L. Blaylock explains how excitotoxins destroy brain cells and are linked to autism, ADHD, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. How do you protect yourself from damage from excitotoxins? Avoid food additives like aspartame and MSG.
The association between alcohol intake and cognitive decline has been extensively documented. Chronic and heavy alcohol abuse or dependence frequently results in impaired cognition and dementia. The increased risk of dementia in older alcoholics with a long history of alcohol abuse interferes with the differential diagnosis. Differential diagnosis is the systematic method healthcare providers use to identify the disease causing a patient’s symptoms. In other words, part of diagnosis is attempting to narrow down the list of possible diagnoses until one emerges as the best. Differentiating alcohol related cognitive disorders from other problems can be difficult.
A study examining a 1986 Census looked at neuropsychological test scores of male patients with suspected alcohol related brain damage and age-matched controls. The researchers concluded that cognitive impairment in alcoholics frequently takes the form of frontal lobe dysfunction and may be relatively subtle, requiring a neuropsychological examination for diagnosis. These slight signs of cognitive impairment may precede those of alcohol related neurological disorders by more than ten years. In other words, the neurological damage done by chronic alcohol abuse may take over a decade to manifest as dementia.
Taking the proper steps to preserve cognitive health is one of the most important aspects of a healthy aging program. By taking care of yourself with the proper steps, your journey is certain to be a memorable one.