Today sees the launch of Cognition, a new app, backed by health professionals and evidence-based research, that can help users cut their risk of Alzheimer’s disease in half.
Contrary to popular belief less than one in 100 cases of Alzheimer’s is caused by genes, and risk factors can be identified from age 35.
This is good news as it means everyone has the opportunity to reduce their risk with some simple lifestyle changes.
A new app, called Cognition shows people exactly how to dementia-proof their diet and lifestyle by understanding their personal level of risk and then providing them with a plan to reduce that risk.
Cognition is the result of ten years of research by the charity FoodForTheBrain.org which has tested 380,000 people via their free online Cognitive Function Test. According to research by NHS and University College London researchers, 88% find the test useful and most go on to make positive diet and lifestyle changes as a result.
The first step is to take the cognition test and then you complete a questionnaire that works out your future dementia risk. It also tells you exactly what’s driving your risk up.
Food For The Brain’s new “brain upgrade” app Cognition helps you lessen your risk one step at a time with personalised, interactive instructions and email coaching, plus reminders via text or WhatsApp. Users also have access to supportive groups on Facebook and Zoom, and are given activities to improve their cognitive function, with everything designed to support them in making brain-friendly changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Diana first took the test when she was 60. “I’ve been doing the Cognitive Function Test for about 10 years. As a result, I’ve modified my diet to include more of the recommended foods and vitamins, I play many more brain training games, have taken steps to reduce stress and anxiety, increased my exercise schedule, and been more aware of my gut/brain relationship and its impact on my health. I’m no longer worried that I’m losing my mental abilities.”
Now, at age 70, Diana’s cognitive function has improved. “In fact, my memory is better, my vocabulary has improved and I’m no longer searching for that ‘right’ word- it’s springing to mind much more readily. People are even complimenting me on my great memory whereas, in the past, I used to joke that I had the memory retention of a goldfish. Doing the test annually has given me confidence that ageing and Alzheimer’s are not to be feared and has played a significant role in reinforcing the lifestyle changes I’ve made.”
The charity is supported by leading Alzheimer’s prevention experts in eight well-established areas of risk. These experts are, today, presenting their evidence at a medical conference in London, including:
- Lack of B vitamins. Professor David Smith’s research from Oxford University showed 73% less brain shrinkage and virtually no further memory loss when giving those with pre-dementia B vitamin supplements versus placebos.
- Lack of seafood and omega-3 fish oils. Eating a serving of fish a week halved Alzheimer’s risk compared to those who ate none, in one study. Studies giving both B vitamins and fish oils show the best evidence for dementia prevention, says Dr Simon Dyall, Programme Lead for Clinical Neuroscience and Clinical Nutrition at the University of Roehampton.
- Too much sugar and carbs. Sugar levels at age 35 predict Alzheimer’s risk later in life, says Professor Robert Lustig, from the University of California, another member of the group. “A high level of sugar and insulin in the blood – linked with a high carbohydrate diet – is definitely a driver for Alzheimer’s.”
- Too little exercise, social and cognitive stimulation. “Exercise is important because it makes the brain do things that keep it healthy, such as growth and repair,” says Dr Tommy Wood, Assistant Professor of Paediatrics at Washington University. “When they aren’t stimulated, the health of brain tissues deteriorates, with a knock-on effect on memory and thinking.” And it’s not just physical exercise that does this, we also benefit from the mental exercise involved in activities like solving puzzles or learning a new language. “For many people, the worst thing they can do for their brain is to retire”, says Wood. “They lose much of the stimulation that kept it healthy.”
These are five out of eight domains of risk, the others being eating plenty of antioxidants from fruit and veg, having a healthy gut, sleeping well and controlling stress. Targeting all eight earlier in life may reduce future dementia risk by as much as two-thirds.
But how do you know what your risk is and what and how to change to reduce your risk? That’s what the Cognition app is all about. Helping people identify and make small changes to protect the brain.
Food For The Brain aims to enrol a million people as “citizen scientists”, sharing research results with all involved to learn what really works.
“Alzheimer’s is preventable, but not reversible. It is not an inevitable consequence of ageing,” said the charity’s founder, Patrick Holford, nutrition expert and author of over 40 books including the Alzheimer’s Prevention Plan,
“We want to empower people to take charge of their own health, tracking changes and biohacking. In the coming months, we’ll be offering our citizen scientists a pinprick blood test to measure things like omega-3, vitamin D, glucose and B vitamin status. Our goal is to continue to research and establish what really keeps people healthy and protects us from preventable and crippling diseases such as Alzheimer’s. We want to create a model for sustainable healthcare that really works.”