How Sleep, Diet, and Sunshine May Affect Alzheimer’s Risk
A new study linking sleep loss and Alzheimer’s has recently been making headlines. The study, from the Netherlands, has found that after even one night of poor sleep the brain produces a higher amount of amyloid beta. Why is this important? Accumulations of amyloid-beta in the form of “plaques” in the brain are one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
One theory holds that sleep helps our brains clear out the “garbage” cells, including amyloid-beta. So when you have a poor night’s sleep, the brain doesn’t clear as much cellular trash out, and the amyloid starts to build up. Of course, sleep is just one potential risk factor for amyloid buildup, which is in turn just one aspect of the whole Alzheimer’s picture. So it’s not prudent to jump to the conclusion that poor sleep puts a person at high risk for Alzheimer’s until much more research has been conducted.
What steps can you take to try and prevent amyloid buildup in the brain? Luckily, there are some compounds found in food that have been shown to effectively decrease amyloid-beta in the brain:
- CURCUMIN, which is present in the spice turmeric, has been found to reduce amyloid in the brain. Most Indian curry powder includes turmeric. Some scientists believe that curcumin’s antioxidant and other health benefits explain why India has comparably low rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s. (You can learn more about turmeric’s neuroprotective benefits and get brain healthy recipes featuring turmeric here.)
- VITAMIN D3 was recently shown to help the brain clear out amyloid plaques. Vitamin D3 is mostly synthesized through the skin, from the sun, but it can also be found in a few foods like egg yolks, cheese, and beef liver. (Here are some helpful guidelines about getting D3 from the sun.)
- OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS were also indicated in the vitamin D3 study. They are found in cold water fish like wild salmon, anchovies, sardines, and trout, as well as walnuts, eggs, and flax seeds. (You can learn more about the neuroprotective benefits of cold water fish and get brain healthy recipes featuring them here.)
- OLEOCANTHAL, a compound in olive oil, was also recently found to clear mice brains of amyloid plaques.