I just read a sad story about a 31 year old Rebecca Doig from Australia who gave birth last week to a baby and already has forgotten the experience, due to her rare form of aggressive, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Doig appears to be the youngest person to suffer from this tragic disease which robs the patient’s brain of memories and bodily functions over time, due to microbiological actions of brain cells which are not yet wholly understood.
Researchers have gotten closer to determining certain genes that may determine who develops Alzheimer’s, which is still considered uncurable.
Alzheimer’s disease affects 10% of adults by the age of 65 and 30% over the age of 85%, which is a substantial amount of adults. There seem to be several factors involved with the development of this disease, and some of them seem to be nutrition-related.
One aspect of Alzheimer’s involves free-radicals and the way they interact with beta-amyloids, which are clumps of protein in the brain tissue. Free-radicals seem to aid beta-amyloids with clumping faster than they would naturally, which is seen as a key component to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
Certain minerals are shown to trigger free-radical attacks, which include iron, copper, zinc, and aluminum, however it’s difficult to know how consumption of these minerals may precipitate or worsen Alzheimer’s disease.
Some enzyme processes, such as those involving the decreased production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from choline and acetyl CoA may eventually be found to have a relationship with nutrition, however at this point, supplementing with choline-rich supplements does not affect the outcome.
A relationship with cardiovascular disease risk factors and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease has been found in some cases, indicating making healthy changes in diet and exercise may lower risk of both conditions.
Ensuring a person with Alzheimer’s continues to eat a healthy diet, despite challenges they may have remembering to eat and what is nutritious will benefit the person the most through the course of their disease.
Supervised meals and planned eating times are beneficial, as are steps to make the food more appealing and easy to consume, such as picking the person’s favorite foods and making sure they are presented in small bites. Serving meals with limited distractions such as music and television will also make feeding and Alzheimer patient more productive.
Research, support, and good nutrition all work together toward improving the life of a patient with Alzheimer’s. If you caretake someone with Alzheimer’s, it’s worth taking the time to provide nutritious meals to help them feel healthy and maintain their comfort.