Dementia diet warning: Eat just a teaspoon of this food to reduce risk

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Experts say tens of thousands of lives could be saved by more Britons taking steps to reduce their risk of dementia, and slowing the onset of brain decline. As we learn more about what causes dementia, particular dietary choices are linked to better brain health as you get older. Here’s what you need to know about a dementia-friendly diet.

The biggest, and unfortunately inevitable, risk factor for dementia is getting older.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, one in six people over the age of 80 has dementia.

However, as more research looks into what causes dementia, other risk factors are being identified and warned against.

The Alzheimer’s Society says slowing the onset of dementia by even five years “would halve the number of deaths from the condition, saving 30,000 lives a year.”

A healthy diet and regular exercise can help to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and slow the onset of brain decline.

Eating healthily is one of the most important steps to take to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, but what does a healthy diet look like when it comes to dementia?

What is the one everyday food you must cut down on?

The MIND diet is recommended as the most effective dietary approach to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia in the UK.

This diet was created by combining the approaches from the Mediterranean diet – high in vegetables and whole foods, low on processed foods – and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which focuses on limiting your salt intake.

The guiding principle behind the MIND diet is to cut out processed foods, and focus on nutrient-dense vegetables and protein sources, while lowering your intake of salt and saturated fats.

One of the first steps you can take is to cut back on your salt intake, ensuring you are consuming less than a teaspoon of salt every day.

The maximum amount of salt per day is set at six grams per day; barely a teaspoon.

However, many highly processed foods contain high levels of salt, and eating too many of these can cause you to consume far more than six grams of salt per day.

The average Briton consumes 8.4 grams of salt every day, meaning they will need to reduce their overall intake by around a third.

Instead, try adding more flavour to dishes by using spices, herbs and other seasonings like lemon juice.

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A Canadian study found older adults who exercised rarely and ate high levels of salt were at greater risk of losing brain function.

Another American study looking at the effects of salt on mice, found eating a lot of salt caused memory problems.

Commenting on this American study, Alzheimer’s Research UK said: “Despite only accounting for around 2% of body weight, the human brain requires approximately 15% of the body’s blood supply.

“Changes to the blood supply can have wide-reaching effects, and have been linked to changes in the brains of people with dementia.”

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, added: “While this research was in mice, the findings highlight the importance of cutting out excess salt in our diets, as well as identifying possible new avenues in the search for treatments to help those with memory problems or dementia.

“Eating a balanced diet, not smoking, only drinking in moderation, staying mentally and physically active, and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol can all help to maintain brain health as we age.”

What other foods should you cut to reduce your risk of dementia?

According to the MIND diet, in addition to cutting down on salt, and cutting out processed foods, you should eat the following foods in moderation:

  • Fried food: Can be high in both salt and in saturated fats, it’s best to cut down on any greasy or deep-fried foods. Eat them once a week at most.
  • Butter and margarine: The MIND diet says less than a tablespoon of these a day, and suggests using olive oil instead where possible.
  • Pastries and sweets: Also very high in butter, as well as sugar, you should cut down on pastries and sweets to only indulge in them every other day (at most).
  • Cheese: The MIND diet says cut your cheese intake down to once a week.
  • Red meat: Three servings of red meat a week is the limit, according to the MIND diet. Chicken and poultry is recommended as an alternative protein source.

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