In medical circles, it’s believed that what’s good for the heart is good for the brain. So, as a cardiologist, I’d like to tell you about 4 amazing gifts from Nature that both help your heart and help you ward off Alzheimer’s disease. No small feat! They’re economical, they taste great when added to the food you eat everyday, and Alzheimer researchers have proven them to add real benefit to the fight against Alzheimer’s. Here’s what you should know…
These 4 Amazing Spices Help Fight Alzheimer’s
Even though I don’t treat Alzheimer disease, I often see heart patients who also have this debilitating neurological condition. That’s because they’re related. In fact, cardiologists and neurologists (brain doctors) refer to heart disease and Alzheimer’s as the “twin pathologies.” For example, hypertension leads to brain-damaging stroke and inflammation causes plaque to buildup in vascular systems resulting in decreased blood (and oxygen) flow to both the heart and brain. These conditions also contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Having heart disease, then, significantly ups your risk for developing Alzheimer’s. In the United States, 5.4 million Americans are affected by Alzheimer’s disease while about 60 million Americans have some degree of heart disease. So, you see, there’s that much more opportunity for Americans with heart disease to also develop Alzheimer’s. While heart disease can often be treated successfully, cured even, sadly, there are no known cures for Alzheimer’s at present.
So, as a cardiologist, I like to make sure my heart patients are doing everything they can to both help their heart and prevent Alzheimer’s. That’s why I tell them the importance of adding these 4 amazing spices to their diet regularly.
1. Cinnamon. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease recently reported that researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara have proven that the active chemical compounds in cinnamon – cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin – prevent the formation of the “tau” protein tangles that characterizes Alzheimer’s. These compounds, the researchers say, are high potency antioxidants that fight the free radical oxidation damage that results in inflammation and development of the memory-destroying tau proteins. Cinnamon also fights diabetes which also ups the risk for Alzheimer’s. The cinnamon used in their study was Ceylon-type cinnamon – not Cassia, the type used in common grocery store spices. Their study did not indicate if grocery-store cinnamon (Cassia) would have the same tau protein fighting benefits as the Ceylon. But, there are, however, differences in the liver threshold safety of Cassia (also known as Vietnamese, Chinese, Asian) cinnamon which contains much higher coumarin levels than Ceylon cinnamon. You can find Ceylon (also known as Sri Lankan, Indian, Madagascar) type cinnamon at Wal-Mart’s (Frontier Herb Organic Ceylon), online and at health food stores. The UC study cautioned against using more cinnamon than you would typically sprinkle on your food naturally, so I would recommend using no more than about 1/8-1/4 tsp daily. Sprinkle it on cereal, toast, apples, cocoa, or drink as a tea.
2. Rhodiola Rosea. Rhodiola is characterized as an herb/spice and has long been in European diets. It is thought to stimulate the nervous system, improve stamina and fight fatigue. Recently, Chinese researchers have shown rhodiola to significantly (88%) enhance memory and concentration in lab animals. Its active compound – salidroside – has been proven to stimulate acetylcholine, a brain neurotransmitter that helps improve and retain memory. Rhodiola is a neuro-stimulant so it should not be taken by people with bipolar disorder. It can also cause insomnia and irritability if taken in too large doses (1,500 mg +). I recommend not going over the standard dosage starting with 100-150 mg per day for a week and then increasing to twice per day, total 300 mg daily. You can also make rhodiola into a tea to drink as well.
3. Rosemary. Recent research out of Saint Louis University has shown that the spice rosemary enhances memory and concentration and may hinder the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The high-antioxidant value of rosemary reduced oxidative stress in the areas of the brain that governs learning and memory. Rosemary is used frequently in Mediterranean dishes, beef stew, lamb, chicken and turkey dishes, and much more. You can use as a spice in cooking, about 1 tsp per total recipe, or in a flavored cooking oil. You can also take rosemary capsules (not more than 4-6 grams daily). Do not take essential, distilled rosemary oil internally as it can be poisonous.
4. Turmeric. This typically Indian spice (curry, curcumin) has been used for centuries which may account for why Indian cultures have low incidences of Alzheimer’s disease. A recent Indian study published in the journal, Ayu, revealed that Alzheimer patients, given about 1 gram (764 mg to be exact) of turmeric per day for 12 weeks showed remarkable improvement in many of their symptoms. After 1 year of turmeric treatment, these patients came to re-recognize their family members. The researchers believe that it is the active curcumin compounds that disable the beta amyloid, or tau, proteins from developing. Turmeric can easily be incorporated into your diet everyday simply by eating a few tablespoons of mustard per day. You can also take turmeric capsules, 400-600 mg x2-3 a times day, or drink turmeric tea, or eat more Indian foods which use turmeric in just about everything.
More and more, health researchers are learning about the amazing health and disease preventative properties of spices and herbs. Adding these 4 – and others – to your diet everyday can really help boost your antioxidant levels and keep the diseases of aging like Alzheimer’s, heart disease and diabetes at bay.