Eat More Fat To Avoid Dementia

by Mary on May 9, 2013

Don’t believe everything you read in the press about diet. When it comes to avoiding dementia it is easy to be misled. In particular people are often under the impression that fat is bad for health. In fact we all need fat in our diet to remain healthy and fat is essential for a healthy brain function.

A sufficient amount of fat in our diet causes us to feel full. It prevents overeating because an excess of fat will cause you to feel sick.  To supply the essential fatty acids needed for proper function of the brain you need to eat at least 40 grams of fats each day.

Do not be mislead by the simple statement commonly read in popular literature that ‘eating fat makes you fat’. This is not true. When fat is digested it is oxidised by the body to provide energy for tissue activity and for the maintenance of body temperature. Any deposits of fat around the vital organs of the body hold these organs in position and protect them from damage.

Fat is particularly important in the structure of the brain and nervous tissue. We need a steady intake of fat for the brain to function properly. Fats make up sixty percent of the brain and the nerves that run every system in the body. The body needs two kinds of fat to manufacture healthy brain cells. These fats are called omega 6 and omega 3.  These are often known as essential fatty acids.

Cholesterol – another favourite ‘villain’ is also vital for normal bodily functioning. It is mainly made by the liver but can be found in some foods we eat. Cholesterol is needed everywhere in the brain. The brain uses it to manufacture the neurotransmitters, which transmit electrochemical signals between nerve cells.

Research has shown that the cerebrospinal fluid in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease is deficient in fats and cholesterol and suggests that Alzheimer’s disease may be caused by a deficiency in the supply chain of cholesterol, fats and antioxidants to the brain. This research suggests that a diet high in high-glyceamic  carbohydrates (especially fruit sugar) and low in cholesterol and fats begins the process that leads to neuronal failure. Modifying your diet so that you eat fewer highly processed carbohydrates and more fats and cholesterol is one protective measure against Alzheimer’s disease. *

People with dementia often have a poor diet. If you are a caregiver for someone with this diagnosis you can make useful changes to their diet. You can switch to using full-fat milk and include plenty of eggs, cheese and butter in the diet. You can also include oily fish several times per week. (Some people prefer a fish-oil supplement). You can ensure that the person you care for eats more unprocessed foods (for example brown rice and wholemeal bread) and reduces their consumption of cakes, biscuits and sweet cereals.

* Seneff S, et al. Nutrition and Alzheimer’s disease: The detrimental role of a high carbohydrate diet. Eur J Intern Med (2011)

The Essential Guide to Avoiding dementia – Understanding the Risks, Mary Jordan, Hammersmith Health books 2014

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: