Although there is no cure for dementia, a balanced, nutritious diet may help lower someone’s risk of developing dementia or delay its progression. Further research is necessary to understand the full role diet may play.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that dementia may affect around 14 million adults by the year 2060.
There is no single food that will prevent dementia. However, certain lifestyle choices, such as exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet, may reduce a person’s risk of developing dementia.
This article lists several foods that can benefit brain health, which a person could include in a balanced diet to reduce the risk of dementia.
While there is no definitive cure for dementia, certain dietary choices and lifestyle factors may play a role in reducing the risk of developing dementia or slowing its progression.
Preventing dementia is a complex issue and involves various factors, including genetics and overall health. However, a balanced diet containing certain foods may help prevent the development of this condition.
Fatty fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for early brain development and brain cell communication.
According to a 2021 article, DHA, in particular, may be vital for brain function and cell growth. Regularly consuming fatty fish may support brain function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Learn more about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
Leafy greens contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that may benefit brain health.
For example, a 2023 study associates high homocysteine levels with an increased risk of cognitive impairment in people recovering from COVID-19. Leafy greens are rich in folate, a B vitamin that may help reduce homocysteine levels in the blood.
The National Institute on Aging highlights leafy greens, linking them to fewer signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain.
Berries are rich in antioxidants, including flavonoids, which may help protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation.
A 2020 systematic review examines some research that suggests regular consumption of blueberries may improve cognitive function and delay age-related cognitive decline. However, the authors highlight the need for more research.
Nuts are a great source of healthy fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. They also contain antioxidants and vitamin E, which can help protect brain cells from oxidative damage.
A 2022 study links consistent high nut consumption with a lower risk of cognitive impairment in older adults from China.
The combination of healthy fats and antioxidants in nuts may make them a valuable addition to a brain-healthy diet.
Turmeric contains curcumin, an active compound with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
A 2018 article suggests that curcumin may have neuroprotective effects and could contribute to better brain health. The authors suggest that curcumin shows promise as a part of therapy and treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
Whole grains provide complex carbohydrates that release glucose gradually, providing a steady energy supply to the brain. This can help improve short and long-term memory and brain aging.
A 2023 study on 2,958 subjects associates the consumption of whole grain foods with a lower risk of all-cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease dementia.
Avocados are a source of healthy monounsaturated fats, which can contribute to improved blood flow and brain health.
A 2021 study examined the effect of avocados on cognitive performance in older adults. Participants who consumed avocados had significantly better scores across all cognitive tests than those who did not eat avocados.
This high quality oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, which studies associate with lower rates of age-related cognitive decline.
Rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, it may support brain health by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.
Dark chocolate contains flavonoids and antioxidants that may improve cognitive function and promote better blood flow to the brain.
Green tea is rich in antioxidants, including catechins. Some studies suggest that catechins may have neuroprotective effects and may potentially help protect the brain from age-related cognitive decline.
Staying well-hydrated is essential for maintaining overall health, including brain function. Dehydration can impair cognitive performance and concentration, so it is best for people to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Excessive consumption of some foods may negatively affect cognitive function. These foods include:
- Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can harm the brain and affect cognitive function.
- Sugary drinks: Some research suggests that artificial sweeteners in soda and other drinks may adversely affect brain health.
- Red meat: While lean cuts of red meat can be part of a balanced diet, some research associates excessive consumption of red and processed meats with reduced cognitive function.
- Ultra-processed foods: These foods may contain additional salt, sugars, and fats and may increase the risk of dementia.
If someone is concerned about dementia or cognitive decline, they should speak with a healthcare professional, especially if they experience symptoms or have risk factors.
Regular check-ups with a doctor can help monitor cognitive health and detect early signs of cognitive decline.
Some potential signs and symptoms that may indicate a cause for contacting a doctor include:
- memory problems
- changes in cognitive function
- behavioral or personality changes
- difficulty with activities of daily living
- falls or accidents
There is no single food that will prevent or treat dementia. However, reducing or avoiding certain foods and incorporating brain-boosting foods into a balanced diet can contribute to a lower risk of dementia.
People can also take other lifestyle measures to improve cognitive function and overall health, such as regular exercise or stress relief techniques, including meditation and deep breathing.
People should speak with a healthcare professional if they are concerned that they or someone else is showing signs of cognitive decline or dementia.