Importance Of Nutrition
The connections in the brain, called synapses, are continuously re-formed throughout life. This means that existing synapses are replaced every 3-6 months with new ones. In a healthy brain the amount of new synapses that are formed matches the amounts that are lost. What we consume plays an important part in the process because the brain needs key nutrients – omega-3 fatty acids, phospholipids, choline, uridine monophosphate and B vitamins – in the right combination and at the right level to replace the synapses.
While a healthy brain can replace the synapses as quickly as they’re required, this doesn’t occur in someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, the loss of synapes occurs at a faster rate than they can be replaced, causing memory loss and the decline of other cognitive functions.
With nutrients being important in this process of synapse replacement, eating plans such as the Mediterranean diet – rich in in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, beans, wheat and rice but limited in red meats and poultry – have been found to assist brain health in older adults.
While scientists don’t have a definitive answer to why synapses aren’t replaced at the optimal rate in people with Alzheimer’s, it’s known that those in the early stages of the condition typically have low levels of those key nutrients, even if they eat a healthy diet.1,2
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- Lopes da Silva S et al, Alzheimer’s & Dementia 2014; 10(4); 485-50
- Mi W et. al Nutrition 29:1080-1089