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January 29, 2019 Eating healthy has been shown to help people reduce their dementia risk and retain their thinking and memory skills as they age. With January being Alzheimer’s Awareness month, how do recent changes to the Canada Food Guide measure up?

Dr. Carol Greenwood, co-author of the first Canadian Brain Health Food Guide for adults and the first science-based cookbook for the brain, Mindfull, says the new food guide aligns with brain healthy eating and dementia risk reduction.

“Canada’s Food Guide addresses healthy eating habits which include more home-prepared foods, meal planning and eating with others,” says Dr. Greenwood, who is leading a clinical trial exploring the effectiveness of a combined diet and exercise intervention for a nation-wide research initiative, the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging.  “These activities help adults keep cognitively engaged and maintain their social networks. These habits not only support more healthful eating, but in and of themselves, support brain health.”

Much of the evidence supporting Canada’s Food Guide is based on reducing the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The same practices are associated with healthy brain aging, adds Dr. Greenwood.

Both the new Canada Food Guide and the Brain Health Food Guide developed at Baycrest recommend Canadians shift their diet towards more plant-based diets by eating more fruits, vegetables and plant proteins such as beans, legumes and nuts.

carolgreenwood_1.jpg“The challenge is often to make recommendations that cross cultural and ethnic lines,” says Dr. Greenwood. “Both guides attempt to do this and by enabling individuals to embrace their cultures, people can enjoy experiencing the tastes and textures of different ethnic foods that are good for their heart and brain health.”

Researchers have found that there a number of activities people can participate in to protect their brain health as they age.

Dr. Greenwood, along with other Baycrest researchers, are exploring combining various lifestyle changes, including eating well, exercise, music or language lessons and documentary discussion groups, to reduce a person’s risk of dementia.

Any older adults between the ages of 60 to 85 who have concerns about declining memory or thinking skills and want to become involved clinical trials on nutrition and exercise or the benefits of various leisure activities, such as learning music or Spanish or participating in documentary discussion groups, can contact: Kaljani Mahalingam at 416-785-2500 x3315.
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