Alzheimer's disease often begins with what appears to be simple forgetfulness, but it wreaks much more havoc over time, destroying speech, comprehension, and coordination and causing restlessness and dramatic mood swings. One in three people over the age of 80 will be its victim, and most of us sit back and hope we won't be one of them. The right diet may delay the onset of the disease or lower your risk by as much as 40%. So, isn't a diet change worth it?
The by-product of all of the chemical reactions in our busy brains are free radicals, unstable molecules that damage cells, possibly speeding up mental decline. Foods that contain antioxidants neutralize those free radicals, "mopping up" the "pollution" in your brain.
Research on the dietary habits of large groups of people has found that eating plenty of foods rich in vitamin C (like red peppers, currants, broccoli, and strawberries) and vitamin E (like olive oil and almonds) may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's.
In a study conducted by researchers at the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, people who consumed the most vitamin E from foods (averaging 11.4 IU) had a risk of Alzheimer's that was a whopping 67 percent lower than that of people who got the least (averaging 6.2 IU).
The effect of supplements is less clear, possibly because they tend to be taken in high-dose increments, unlike food that's eaten over a lifetime. Foods also contain all forms of vitamin E, whereas supplements typically contain only one type, alpha-tocopherol. The different forms of vitamin E neutralize different forms of free radicals.