Dementia diet: Common breakfast spread ‘may increase behavioural symptoms’

Steve Thompson recalls signs of his early-onset dementia

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In England alone, an estimated 676,000 people have dementia according to the NHS. Though dementia and Alzheimer’s are caused by a number of things, research shows that some dietary choices can increase risk and worsen symptoms.

Experts from the Alzheimer’s Association explained: “Proper nutrition is important to keep the body strong and healthy.

“For a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, poor nutrition may increase behavioural symptoms and cause weight loss.”

Although some fat is essential for health, not all fats are the same, and certain ones could be detrimental to a person at risk of dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Association said: “Go light on fats that are bad for heart health, such as butter, solid shortening, lard and fatty cuts of meats.”

Dementia Australia says diet is one factor researchers are investigating for its role in reducing the risk of dementia.

The organisation said studies have suggested people with high intakes of saturated and trans fats in their diet “have a higher risk of developing dementia”.

People with a diet including unsaturated, unhydrogenated fats “have a lower risk”.

Dementia Australia added: “Foods high in saturated fat include butter, lard, meat, full-fat dairy products, coconut oil, palm oil and chocolate.

“Trans fats are used widely in some fast food, snack foods, fried foods and commercially baked goods like cakes and biscuits.”

As well as avoiding a diet heavy in “bad” fat, the Alzheimer’s Association also encourages people at risk and caregivers of those with dementia to avoid high sodium and refined sugars.

The association said: “Often found in processed foods, refined sugars contain calories but lack vitamins, minerals and fibre.

“You can tame a sweet tooth with healthier options like fruit or juice-sweetened baked goods.”

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To reduce salt intake, use spices or herbs as an alternative seasoning.

What foods can reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s?

Dr Marc Agronin, Alzheimer’s researcher and author of “The Dementia Caregiver,” said a good rule to follow is “what’s good for your heart is good for your brain.”

He told Healthline: “What we eat over our lifetime has a dramatic impact on our health and risk for many diseases, including dementia.”

The expert recommends eating a diet high in olive and nut oils, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes and less highly processes sugars and red meats.

There is also some evidence to suggest that a Mediterranean diet could also be beneficial for brain health.

Alzheimer’s Association explained: “Provide a balanced diet with a variety of foods.

“Offer vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods.”

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