Eating “Brain Healthy” Foods Just Became More Important for Women

One thing we know about Alzheimer’s Disease is that it strikes twice as many women and men. Researchers are just beginning to understand why this is. Menopause, and more specifically the lower levels of estrogen that result from menopause, is emerging as a potential culprit.

Neuroscientist Dr. Lisa Mosconi‘s article in the New York Times, “The Menopause-Alzheimer’s Connection” is a must read for women.

Dr. Mosconi, who serves as the Associate Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College, says, “The latest research, including my own work, indicates that estrogen serves to protect the female brain from aging. It stimulates neural activity and may help prevent the build up of plaques that are connected to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. When estrogen levels decline, the female brain becomes much more vulnerable.”

brain-healthy-women
PET scans comparing (R) a postmenopausal woman’s brain, and (L) premenopausal woman’s brain.

What can women do about the inevitability of declining estrogen levels if they don’t want to take supplemental estrogen which has well-documented negative side effects? Dr. Mosconi says, “Diet can alleviate and mitigate the effects of menopause in women which could minimize the risk of Alzheimer’s.”

Her advice to women is to choose foods that boost estrogen, such as soy, flax seeds, chickpeas, garlic and fruit like apricots. She says that women also need antioxidants, like vitamin C and E, that are naturally found in berries, citrus fruits, almonds, raw cacao, Brazil nuts and many leafy green vegetables. 

Many of the foods Dr. Mosconi recommends are staples of the Mediterranean Diet. Check out our Brain Healthy Cooking hub for more information, including shopping lists and easy-to-cook at-home recipes to help protect your brain health.