A man has told of how he "got his mum back" after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, in part, by getting her to follow a diet high in berries and leafy green vegetables. But how realistic is it that dementia can be tackled through diet? The bulk of research had been on the preventative side rather than treating Alzheimer’s.
Mark Hatzer’s mum Sylvia was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in December 2016 and it progressed fast, so that at its worst she forgot who he was. Mark said a change in her diet led to her condition improving.
"I slowly got my mum back. Her memory is improving all the time. She is more alert and engaged. She is basically her old self again," he wrote in a blog.
So what did Sylvia’s diet entail?
Leafy green vegetables
Few processed/fatty foods
Blueberries ‘boost memory’
Sylvia ate a diet rich in blueberries, blackberries and strawberries.
Berries are part of the flavonoid nutrient family which is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities.
Investigators have claimed that blueberries may activate part of the brain which controls learning and memory, but more studies are needed.
Sylvia’s diet was also rich in leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale. Like berries, green leaves and vegetables contain high levels of antioxidants. The Alzheimer’s Society says that high levels of antioxidants may help to protect against some of the damage to brain cells associated with the disease.
Inflammation – in the form of a chemical change in the brain – is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and the charity says there are suggestions that a diet high in antioxidants reduces the signs of this inflammation.
Also on Sylvia’s diet plan were sweet potatoes, carrots and swede. These orange-coloured vegetables are rich in another antioxidant, called beta-carotene, which some scientists say may benefit the brain and memory.
Sylvia excluded refined sugar and sugary drinks, fried foods and fast food and pastries, cakes and sweets from her diet – foods that experts agree should be kept to a minimum for a healthy diet.
What do experts think?
What Sylvia is following in her diet is very much like the Mediterranean diet, with few processed and fatty foods and lots of fresh fruit and veg.
Alzheimer’s Research UK said the latest research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2017 found four studies highlighting the potential benefits of certain diets, including the Mediterranean diet, and how they can support healthy brain ageing and help to reduce dementia risk.