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Nutrition and Dementia: Foods That May Induce Memory Loss & Increase the Risk of Alzheimer's

Written by Jennifer Wegerer
 about the author
3 minute readLast updated April 3, 2023

Research shows that what we eat may affect memory. And, some foods may increase a senior’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Processed meats, some cheeses, and foods high in refined carbohydrates may all contribute to memory problems. To help boost memory, avoid eating too many processed foods and focus instead on foods like leafy greens, lean proteins, and whole grains. These foods can help boost memory and offer other health benefits.

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Studies have shown that while some foods boost memory, others actually increase risks for Alzheimer’s disease. These same foods are linked to other serious health problems, making it that much more important to limit or remove them from a senior’s diet.
A healthy diet does more than benefit our waistlines. It improves heart health, lowers the risk for cancer, diabetes, and other diseases, and keeps the brain healthy. In fact, research has shown that a poor diet impacts memory and increases a person’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Why some foods can increase Alzheimer's risk

The brain needs its own brand of fuel. It requires healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and adequate vitamins and minerals. Consuming too little of these foods and too many complex carbohydrates, processed foods, and sugar stimulates the production of toxins in the body. Those toxins can lead to inflammation, the build-up of plaques in the brain and, as a result, impaired cognitive function. These effects apply to people of all ages, not just seniors.

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Foods that may contribute to dementia

Unfortunately, the following foods linked to Alzheimer’s disease are common staples in the American diet:
  • Processed cheeses, including American cheese, mozzarella sticks, and spray cheese may contribute to a build up of proteins in the body that have been associated with Alzheimer’s.
  • Processed meats, such as bacon, smoked turkey, and ham, contain nitrites, which cause inflammation in the body.
  • Beer typically contains nitrites, too, which have been linked to Alzheimer’s.
  • Complex carbohydrates, including pasta, cakes, white sugar, white rice, and white bread cause spikes in insulin production and can contribute to the formation of toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer’s.
  • Microwave popcorn contains diacetyl, a chemical that may increase amyloid plaques in the brain. Research has linked a buildup of amyloid plaques to Alzheimer’s disease.

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Healthy foods that boost memory

Changing dietary habits is never easy. However, avoiding foods that may contribute to memory loss and eating more of the foods that boost memory improves your chances of enjoying better all-around health.
The following are examples of foods that support overall health for people of all ages:
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Salmon and other cold-water fish
  • Berries and dark-skinned fruits
  • Coffee and chocolate
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Cold-pressed virgin coconut oil


  1. Desilets AR, et al. Role of huperzine a in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Ann Pharmacother. 2009 Mar;43(3):514-8.

  2. Gu Y, et al. Food combination and Alzheimer disease risk: a protective diet. Arch Neurol. 2010 Jun;67(6):699-706.

  3. Lourida I, et al. Mediterranean diet, cognitive function, and dementia: a systematic review. Epidemiology. 2013 Jul;24(4):479-89.

  4. Mangialasche F, et al. High plasma levels of vitamin E forms and reduced Alzheimer’s disease risk in advanced age. J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;20(4):1029-37.

  5. Pettegrew JW, et al. Clinical and neurochemical effects of acetyl-L-carnitine in Alzheimer’s disease. Neurobiology of Aging. 1995 Jan-Feb;16(1):1-4.

  6. Scarmeas N, et al. Physical activity, diet, and risk of Alzheimer disease. JAMA. 2009 Aug 12;302(6):627-37.6. Unlisted. Citicoline. Alt Med Rev. 2008;13(1):50-7.

Meet the Author
Jennifer Wegerer

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom (of which OurParents is a trademark) and the reader.  Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site.  Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.