Healthy Diet Might Halt, Reverse Alzheimer's Disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Scientists say patients with early Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment might benefit from focusing on a healthy diet. Findings from mouse studies suggest that a healthy diet might halt the progression of and even reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss.

A prior study from researchers at Temple University, lead by Domenico Praticò, an associate professor of pharmacology at the School of Medicine showed that a diet rich in foods that contain methionine – red meat, certain types of fish, beans, garlic, onions and seeds increased the chances of developing amyloid plaque in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In a new study, the scientists found that mice switched to a healthy diet low in methionine had a complete reversal of cognitive decline within two months that occurred after three months on a methionine rich diet.


Mice with cognitive impairment were able to perform normally after switching to a healthy diet. Dr. Pratico says, "What it tells us is that the brain has this plasticity to reverse a lot of the bad things that have occurred; the ability to recoup a lot of things such as memory that were apparently lost, but obviously not totally lost.” The study was conducted to see if consuming a bad diet had lasting effects or if switching to healthier food options might reverse Alzheimer’s disease – and it did.

"At the end of the study, when we looked at these mice, what we found — very surprisingly — was that switching to a more healthy diet reversed the cognitive impairment that had built up over the first three months of eating the methionine-rich diet," said Praticò. "This improvement was associated with less amyloid plaques — another sign of the disease — in their brains.

Combined with physical and mental exercises Praticò says a healthy diet might slow down and even reverse Alzheimer’s disease. The scientists believe switching to a diet lower in the amino acid methionine, even in the presence of mild cognitive decline or early Alzheimer’s disease could improve memory by reversing the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

FASEB Journal: doi: 10.1096/fj.10-161828