According to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada1, there are more than half a million Canadians currently living with dementia and 56,000 of those individuals are being cared for in hospitals. With sobering statistics like these, you may ask the question, What can I do to improve my brain health or that of a loved one?
Baycrest Health Sciences recently announced the creation of the first Canadian Brain Health Food Guide, led by its scientists. The guide provides an evidence-based approach to healthy eating for the aging brain to help adults 50+ maintain their cognitive function as they grow older.
“We know that diet and exercise are important to leading a healthy lifestyle,” says Dr. Carol Greenwood, co-author of the Brain Health Food Guide, senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute (RRI) and professor at the University of Toronto’s Department of Nutritional Sciences. “The Brain Health Food Guide can be used as part of a primary prevention strategy to encourage behavior changes in older adults that can lead to improved health outcomes.” She notes that looking at classes of foods more holistically, rather than individual foods, is important.
The Brain Health Food Guide provides recommendations on daily foods and serving sizes to include in your diet, as well as foods to limit. Some recommendations include incorporating colourful fruits and vegetables at every meal; grilling, steaming and baking foods instead of deep frying; stocking up on a variety of dried or canned beans, fish, vegetables and fruits; and snacking on more nutritious items such as nuts, fresh fruit, vegetables or low fat yogurt.
“Longitudinal data has shown that individual with healthier diets have substantively lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” added Dr. Greenwood. Research has found that dietary patterns similar to those outlined in the Brain Health Food Guide are associated with decreasing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 36 per cent and mild cognitive impairment (a condition likely to develop into Alzheimer’s) by 27 per cent.
The Canadian Brain Health Food Guide was co-authored by Dr. Matthew Parrott, a former RRI post-doctoral fellow, in collaboration with Dr. Greenwood and nutritionists affiliated with the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA). This project has received support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the CCNA.
The Brain Health Food Guide will be used in an upcoming CCNA clinical trial exploring how diet changes can benefit brain health. “Our next steps are to validate the Brain Health Food Guide within a Canadian context and to look at how to best support dietary change in older adults and to understand their barriers to change. This data can then be shared with the broader health community that can help older adults facilitate making the change,” notes Greenwood.
For more information, please view the Brain Health Food Guide.