Disease & Illness

Women: You May Be Able To Reduce Your Risk Of Alzheimer’s By Eating Estrogen-Rich Food

You'll want to add these foods to your diet.

Alzheimer’s has been called “medicine’s white whale,” an incurable neurodegenerative disease that worsens over time, essentially wiping away an afflicted person’s memories and ability to interact with the world. Despite billions of dollars spent each year treating the estimated 5.7 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, scientists are far from developing a cure. In fact, the most recent drugs to have been approved in the U.S. only treat the symptoms of the disease but don’t stop its progression.

If you’re a woman, there is even more reason for alarm: two-thirds of all Alzheimer’s patients are female. As women get older, their bodies naturally produce less estrogen, and researchers think this can affect more than just fertility.

“The latest research, including my own work, indicates that estrogen serves to protect the female brain from aging,” writes Lisa Mosconi, PhD, associate director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College and author of “Brain Food,” in an op-ed in The New York Times. “It stimulates neural activity and may help prevent the build up of plaques that are connected to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. When estrogen levels decline, the female brain becomes much more vulnerable.”

However, Mosconi writes, “Research shows that diet can alleviate and mitigate the effects of menopause in women, which could minimize the risk of Alzheimer’s.”

So, though women have little control over their hormones, or at what age they enter menopause, there is one aspect of Alzheimer’s prevention that women can take charge of — their diet.

Photo by Pauline Mak

Eating These Foods May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s

Mosconi recommends avoiding processed food, because eating a diet that’s low in processed foods can help reduce a woman’s chances of developing the disease.

Foods that mimic estrogen in the body have also been reported to aid in Alzheimer’s prevention. These include:

  • Apricots
  • Flaxseed
  • Oats
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soy
  • Some legumes, such as chickpeas and fava beans
  • Some cruciferous vegetables, like kale and broccoli

Photo by ktmadeblog

Wondering how to add these foods into your diet? Check out these recipes for easy overnight oats and delicious, crunchy chickpeas. However, keep in mind that consuming foods that mimic estrogen may have a negative effect on breast cancer, so you may want to avoid these foods if you know that you have an increased risk for breast cancer.

Instead, you may want to incorporate other brain health-boosting foods, such as:

  • Glucose-rich, high-fiber foods, which may help prevent proteins in the brain from clumping
  • Berries, including blueberries, which are thought to contain flavonoids that can help improve brain function in older adults
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon or caviar
  • Nuts, including walnuts and pecans
  • Tumeric
  • Small amounts of dark chocolate

According to Steven Masley, MD, author of “The Better Brain Solution,” it’s important to make tweaks to your diet early to improve your brain health before you start experiencing memory loss or lose the ability to concentrate. So no matter your age, it’s never too early to swap out that doughnut or slice of pizza for a healthier food choice that can help ward off Alzheimer’s in your later years.