A Neuroprotective Menu for the Holidays with Alzheimer’s

As we reflect on our own, intimately personal definitions of Thanksgiving, it’s worth appreciating the company we have gathered around us. For a short instance in time, a unique combination of family and friends has congregated around good food and exquisite company.

For me, I’m appreciative that my mother, father, uncles, and aunts have found the time to meet. At the fear of sounding overtly morbid, I am acutely aware that there is no guarantee that this permutation of individuals will meet again. It is more than just a heavy contemplation of death and dying; there are no assurances that jam-packed schedules, relationship commitments, or the creeping responsibilities of work will align. Moreover, time marches inexorably on, without regard for any of us.

Figure 1: Now that I’ve got you here, enjoy this wonderful picture of a Thanksgiving meal. [Photo Link]
There are few mentions of the progress of time and age. One uncle’s dad has slight tremors in his hand and another uncle has blurry spots on his eyes. I ask if said uncle’s dad might have Parkinson’s; he confirms it to be true. The truth of the matter is, neurodegenerative disease is present, an unwelcome guest for the holidays. Whether or not neurodegeneration is our personal harbinger of death or a family member’s, it makes sense to prepare for meals with the intent to preserve our cognition. In this article, I’ve compiled a varied assortment of recipes for a neuroprotective Thanksgiving. So for those epicureans out there, let me tell you a story of epicatechins and polyphenols, a narrative of the foods that will defend your epigenome to their death.

Figure 2: Sir Tuin is quite the attractive fellow and he’ll be attending to your table tonight! [Photo Link]
Today, you’ll be attended to by SIRT1, whose dependency on nicotinamide should not worry you. He is first and foremost, a histone deacetylase of the highest order and one of seven brothers in the culinary business. Also, if you’re worried about some of the more unsavory members of the family, remember that he’s part of Microglia’s detail. So without further ado, here is the menu.

The Neuroprotective Menu:

The Cerebral Drinks:

Figure 3: Probably more fancy than your average cup of tea [Photo Link]

High in epicatechin and EGCG, jasmine green tea contains one of the strongest neuroprotectants (epigallocatechin gallate) that inhibits DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) by hydrogen bonding within the active site of the enzyme. It also indirectly decreases S-adenosyl methionine, which is a group responsible for methyl transfer reactions.

Figure 4: Aasam black tea. That depth of color is quite profound! [Photo Link]

Aasam black tea is also high in epicatechin, a type of flavonoid derived from plants as a secondary metabolite. Because epicatechins are not as strong as EGCG found in green tea, I would recommend jasmine green tea over this one. However, Aasam black tea has the highest amount of epicatechin among the different types of black teas.

Figure 5: Blueberry juice. I can’t say that I’ve ever tried it, but it certainly looks delicious! [Photo Link]

Resveratrol is a plant polyphenol that I truly recommend. Resveratrol and blueberry juice is the tea of choice for the SIRT1 family. In fact, we partook of this tea before preventing Microglia’s death. Also, I found that it helps de-acetylation of your histones.

The Enticing APPetizers:

Figure 6: Edamame has never looked this divine! [Photo Link]

Soybeans are high in genistein, an isoflavone that inhibits the whole family of DNA methyl transferases. DNMT1, the maintenance DNA methyltransferase, is inhibited by genistein, as well as the de novo methyltransferases, DNMT3a and DNMT3b. Consequently, previously silenced tumor suppressor genes are activated. The addition of sautéed, savory garlic is also both tasty and good for the heart. Moreover, it is effective in preventing neuronal cells from apoptosis due to buildup of beta plaques.

Figure 7: I don’t think I’ve ever had apples in a salad [Photo Link]

Broccoli is high in isothiocyanates, a sulfur containing functional group. Broccoli is in a family of vegetables that includes some of my favorite vegetables: kale and cabbage. Broccoli is shown to inhibit histone de-acetylase activity, which leads to increased acetylation of histones and subsequent gene expression.

The Epigenetic Entrées:

Figure 8: The turkey I had for Thanksgiving was half as picturesque as this one, but it did the job. [Photo Link]

Most people know that turkey meat is replete with tryptophan which is quick to put you to sleep. However, the awesome protective part of the meal is the cranberry sauce that has resveratrol, the same compound found in the blueberry juice. If you chose to partake in the green or black tea, I recommend taking your turkey with plenty of cranberry sauce. This gives you an excuse to add cranberry sauce to everything!

Figure 9: I still can’t get the idea out of my mind that broccoli aren’t well-tended tiny trees [Photo Link]

I highly recommend the broccoli with turmeric. Doubling down on the broccoli from the slaw earlier and this dish here will give you twice the isothiocyanates in your system. Moreover, turmeric is high in curcumin, known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiangiogenic, and anti-cancerous properties. It has been used in eastern medicine as a therapeutic and inhibits presinilin 1 activation, a risk factor in familial Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin is also a potent inhibitor of histone acetyl transferase.

The Cortical Dessert:

Figure 10: A fun dessert – also the first dish here that I’ve  actually tried before! [Photo Link]

Gingko biloba leaves have been steeped to make tea for more than 20 years, but I still think it’s a really strange idea. However, the tea has been shown to reduce hydrogen peroxide in the body as well as calcium ion load in the neurons of rat brain. Also, it preferentially increases the non-amyloidogenic APP metabolism which is the good APP metabolic pathway. Finally, it’s high in Kaempferol, a flavonoid polyphenol that inhibits histone deacetylase activity in liver stem cells.

The night is coming to a close. Do not worry, enjoy the time that you have with friends and family. The most important thing you can do is to create memories with the ones you love that you can take with you into old age.

I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I’ll see you all soon.


  1. Sezgin, Zeynep, and Yildiz Dincer. “Alzheimer’s disease and epigenetic diet.” Neurochemistry international 78 (2014): 105-116.

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