Ted Simons: Recipes for a healthy brain are featured in the new "Alzheimer's Prevention Cookbook," one of the co-authors is Dr. Marwan Sabbagh, research medical director at the banner Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City. Earlier I spoke with Dr. Sabbagh about how food can help fight Alzheimer's. Thanks for joining us tonight on "Arizona Horizon."
Marwan Sabbagh: Thank you for having me.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about initially the impact, what do we know about the impact of food on Alzheimer's?
Marwan Sabbagh: Well, we know that it's very clear that once we have Alzheimer's, not clear that food can make a difference, this is more focused on the fact food may alter the risk of future development of Alzheimer's disease. And that -- Because we now understand that the first changes in the brain occur 25 years before the first day of forgetfulness. So the dimensions is actually the end of it, not the beginning of it.
Ted Simons: So it basically lowers the risk of Alzheimer's. Does it perhaps delay the onset of symptoms?
Marwan Sabbagh: It would be ideal to say so. Only one paper I know suggests that is the case. One that looks at the Mediterranean diet which I'm sure we'll talk about later on. We don't know the answer to that quite yet.
Ted Simons: What about the risk of cognizant decline in general? How could food impact that?
Marwan Sabbagh: We know that certain changes that Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline in general could be offset by some of the dietary changes. We know that certain things are important for brain health, like Omega 3 fatty acids and B vitamins in particular. So food turns out to be an excellent source for these things.
Ted Simons: So with that in mind, what is the science regarding food and whether it's onset, whether it's risk, progression, these sorts of things, why leafy green vegetables and Omegas?
Marwan Sabbagh: That's a very good question. It boils down to the fact what I really want to do in the book was assemble the science by doing a critical review. This is not a feel good, do this because I said so. There's actually real science. And it starts with epidemiological surveys where they take surveys of people, populations around the country and the world and look at something called the food frequency questionnaire and assess what trends tend to help people. For example, if we look at fish, if we look at fish and we say that according to the Chicago health and aging project, people who ate three fish meals a week had a 20 to 40% reduction in the amount of Alzheimer's compared to people who didn't eat fish. And why is that? Because certain types of fish have certain cognitive health benefits, particularly rich Omega 3 fatty acids. There are certain diets like that, Mediterranean diets, spices. All these have bodies of evidence that support the truth.
Ted Simons: So the bodies of evidence are there to support the use, but we still aren't quite sure why the Omega 3s or the certain spice does what they do? Can we see the interaction happening in the brain?
Marwan Sabbagh: We do have some speculation, so if we look at Omega 3s, we know there are three Omega 3s and the one that has benefit is DHA - Docosahexaenoic. That's the one you get from the fish. So we know that it's not any Omega 3, it's specific to certain kinds. And we know the science suggest those actually have anti-Alzheimer's properties themselves. So the body of evidence suggests it and the basic science supports it.
Ted Simons: Do the anti-Alzheimer's properties, does this include plaque not forming or something like that.
Marwan Sabbagh: Correct.
Ted Simons: Is that basically what you're looking at?
Marwan Sabbagh: Coreect, yes. But I also want to be clear we're careful to separate treatment from prevention. They actually have done a treatment trial of Omega 3s, particularly DHAs to treat Alzheimer's and it didn't work. So if we know it's going to work it would be maybe in prevention, reducing the risk.
Ted Simons: So the progression of the disease not necessarily food all that much.
Marwan Sabbagh: There's not a lot of evidence to support that, no.
Ted Simons: OK. Let's get to the food now. What constitutes a brain-boosting recipe?
Marwan Sabbagh: A brain hitch boosting recipe I think you really have to be looking at what I think Chef Bo did, and I want to tell you in the book I wrote the science and then I had the opportunity to meet with a team up with celebrity Chef Bo McMillian from sanctuary who took my theme and recipe list, ingredient list and came up with the recipes. One of the things I love about what he did, he created a Brain-Boosting Broth, which is a reduction stock which is wound into many, many recipes full of spices, full of vegetables, really terrific.
Ted Simons: That's interesting. What's in the stock?
Marwan Sabbagh: It has onions and fennel, it has a lot of clove, it has some other like tumeric and other things. We know the antioxidants -- spices have a lot of antioxidant properties like Tumeric, Clove, Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, so -- And it's low in saturated fat. One of the things I want to emphasize is the fact saturated fat seems to be a bad thing for the brain.
Ted Simons: Saturated fat includes --
Marwan Sabbagh: Red meat in particular. And so we know what is bad for the heart tends to also be bad for the brain. So high diets in saturated fat have been clearly shown to promote Alzheimer's changes.
Ted Simons: So rich in antioxidants, rich in anti-imflamatories—is that correct?
Marwan Sabbagh: Correct.
Ted Simons: Umm… Rich in Omega 3s, but not all fish?
Marwan Sabbagh: Not all fish. I wish I could say eating the frozen fish dinners would do the trick. But it's in fact you need Salmon, Tuna, Herring, Mackerel and hall but or the omega rich fish, and those are the ones we would recommend.
Ted Simons: But you also have to watch out for Tuna because of mercury poisoning.
Marwan Sabbagh: Yes. A lot more -- A little is good, more is not better. There's always the worry farm sources or domestic sources can give you heavy metals.
Ted Simons: It almost sounds like the idea of drinking a little bit of wine is good for you, too much wine, not so much. But there's somewhere in the middle.
Marwan Sabbagh: That’s the sweet spot. So we know something called a J-curve, so if you drink a little bit of wine that is one to two glasses of wine, or one or two beers or one or two spirits, not and. That has a 15% reduction in the rate of decline in Alzheimer's disease. But anything above that seems to increase the risk. So it's a J curve.
Ted Simons: So are Pomegranate and cinnamon included as well?
Marwan Sabbagh: Pomegranates have something called Resveratrol, the same thing you get out of red wine. And Resveratrol seems to have some wonderful drugs. It's a real ant aging compound, it's being looked at for anti-cancer properties as well. You've got to drink a lot of pomegranate juice. So you may not get all the Resveratrol as you have to get. And cinnamon actually has direct anti-Alzheimer's properties that offset tangles, which is another change in the brain.
Ted Simons: How difficult is it to find the stuff that's in this cookbook, in these recipes?
Marwan Sabbagh: I think that's -- I compliment my coauthor, Chef Bo. He didn't want to make it too exotic. Yes, he's a celebrity chef, hes on the food network and all that good stuff. But he said, you've got to be go to your own pantry. You don't want to go to every exotic food store around the town. I think the list is pretty basic, but it is really an emphasis on some themes, you really want to get more spices in your diet, less saturated fat, more fruits and vegetables.
Ted Simons: All this is great, but if I can't cook it it's going to sit on the shelf and gain dust. Can’t cook a stuff?
Marwan Sabbagh: I agree. I agree. I tried it myself, and it's quite tasty.
Ted Simons: All right. So it works.
Marwan Sabbagh: It works.
Ted Simons: Alright, it's good to have you again.
Marwan Sabbagh: Thank you, nice to have me.