Eating this one 'healthy' food could increase your risk of Alzheimer’s

With the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease growing fast, it’s never too late (nor too early!) to assess your risk. One of the best places to start? Your own plate. But before you stock up on the best foods for your brain, there’s one surprising item you might want to avoid—and it’s probably in your kitchen right now. Canola oil could increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

To study the cognitive effects of this vegetable-based fat, researchers at Temple University split lab mice into two groups: While the first group ate a normal diet for six months, the others had about two tablespoons of canola oil added to their diets each day. Then, the mice ran a maze to test their cognitive skills.

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Pay attention to the food you eat.

The right diet can contribute to lowering your risk of cognitive decline — in particular a diet called the MIND diet, short for "Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay"

It's a hybrid version of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, focusing on the aspects of those diets that have to do with the brain. Berries, olive oil, nuts, and dark, leafy greens are staples of the diet, which was designed based on large-scale studies of cognitive decline and ranked third on US News and World Report's annual best diet list.

A study of almost 1,000 seniors found the diet appeared to lower the risk of Alzheimer's by 35% for those who followed it moderately and by 53% in people who followed it closely.

Plus, it fits in with what Dr. Maria Carrillo, chief scientific officer of the Alzheimer's Association told Business Insider in July 2016: "Have fun, eat healthy meals that are good for you, and you may end up helping your brain as well as your heart."

Maintain your hearing.

According to a new report in the journal Lancet, losing your hearing can increase your risk of Alzheimer's. While the reason for this isn't entirely clear, the researchers suggested it could have to do with the social isolation that comes from losing your hearing and how that affects the brain when it's not able to work at processing sound. 

Avoiding loud noises, and wearing protective earplugs could help stave off this hearing loss. 

Stay active.

Citing intervention-based trials and epidemiological studies, the National Institute on Aging found that exercise can also play a key role in reducing your risk for Alzheimer's and general cognitive decline. Neurotrack's program recommends strength training and cardiovascular exercises, said Kaplan.

Exercise can have additional health benefits as well, adding to the idea that what's good for your heart and body may also be good for your brain.

Decrease your stress levels where possible.

There is evidence to suggest a link between stress and an increased risk of Alzheimer's and cognitive decline.

A small 2009 study found that of the 41 participants with mild cognitive impairment, those who had higher stress ratings also had faster rates of cognitive decline.

The good news is that there are plenty of steps you can take to manage stress, such as breathing exercises, meditation and yoga.

Maintain healthy sleep habits.

Too little sleep can do a whole host of things to your body and brain.

A 2014 review of observational studies found that poor sleep is a risk factor for cognitive decline and Alzheimer's. Though the researcher said there needs to be more research into the exact mechanisms of why that is, they concluded that "healthy sleep appears to play an important role in maintaining brain health with age, and may play a key role in [Alzheimer's disease] prevention."

Don't smoke.

According to the World Health Organization, smoking is associated with an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's. Researchers think this has to do with the vessels that carry blood around our body and to our brains, which are also linked to things like stroke and heart disease.

Stay socially active.

Staying social can be a great way to lower your risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's. According to the National Institute on Aging, staying cognitively active, either with intellectual stimulation or staying socially engaged, is linked with a decreased risk of Alzheimer's.

That social component is something Neurotrack is working hard to address, said Kaplan. The company has plans to build an internal social network. Since the assessment launched in December 2016, she said she'd seen thousands join a private Facebook group to chat about their results. Kaplan said there's even one group in New Zealand that has started meeting up for coffee after they took the assessment.

Read, play games, or otherwise stimulate your mind.

Along the lines of social engagement, staying stimulated intellectually has also been associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer's. That kind of stimulation can be anything from reading to crossword puzzles or attending lectures and playing memory-based games, according to the National Institute on Aging.

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Based on the mice’s performance, the researchers reported a sharp reduction in the memories of the canola-eating mice compared to the first group. The canola oil group also gained more weight than their counterparts.

But the mice’s weight gain didn’t cause their bad recall skills. Turns out, canola oil consumption also lowered levels of a dementia-fighting protein called amyloid beta 1-40 in the mice’s brains, according to researchers. This protein deficiency allowed amyloid plaque to surround their brains’ neurons, which decreased and damaged the neural connections. The mice’s memories suffered, as a result.

RELATED: 10 best foods for brain health:

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Improving your brain health by consuming more omega-3s may be easier than you think.

Salmon

Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3s, particularly wild salmon or fish oil extracted from salmon.

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Flax Seeds

Flax seeds, according to Nutrition Data, have the highest levels of omega-3s than any other substance on earth.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Walnuts

Walnuts are a great source of omega-3s. Try replacing your everyday vegetable oil with walnut oil to ensure a higher consumption of omega-3s.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Sardines

Sardines can make a great addition to your next salad, as well as possessing a high level of omega-3 fatty acids.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Spinach

Spinach is another omega-3-rich food that would go great on your next salad.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Ham

You may be surprised to learn that Oscar Mayer ham, according to Nutrition Data, contains as high a level of omega-3s when baked or cooked as many varieties of fish.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Oregano

Many spices are high in omega-3s, offering an opportunity to add this vital ingredient into your diet while seasoning your favorite meals. Among the spices that are high in omega-3s, oregano ranks at the top of the list.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Boxed Cereal

Meats, vegetables, and nuts are not the only vital sources of omega-3s out there. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that certain boxed cereals, like Uncle Sam, have significantly high levels of omega-3s.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Tarragon

Tarragon is both a spice high in omega-3s and an excellent way to season your next chicken meal.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds aren't just a furry desk pet anymore. Chia seeds offer higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than any other seed.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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In light of this, you might want to ban canola oil from your pantry. “Even though canola oil is a vegetable oil, we need to be careful before we say that it is healthy,” said Domenico Praticò, MD, a senior investigator on the study. “Based on the evidence from this study, canola oil should not be thought of as being equivalent to oils with proven health benefits.”

Granted, this study used mice instead of humans as subjects, so the jury’s still out on the true effect of canola oil on human brains. But it can’t hurt to swap canola with olive oil, in the meantime. Nutritionists tout—and scientific research confirms—the benefits of this heart and brain-healthy superfood. And while you’re at it, try these everyday habits that reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, too. Trust us, your noggin will thank you.

[Source: EurekAlert]

The post Eating This One “Healthy” Food Could Increase Your Risk of Alzheimer’s appeared first on Reader's Digest.

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