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Diet and Dementia

Series investigating every aspect of the world of food. 850,000 families in the UK are living and eating with dementia. It's a global problem that is going to get bigger.

For the 850 thousand families in the UK living with dementia, the simple daily practise of eating a meal can escalate into a dreaded challenge. Spurred on by a listener's personal experience, Sheila Dillon meets people living with dementia to ask how their relationship with food has changed.

American food writer Paula Wolfert has written award winning books on the food of the Mediterranean. In 2012, she was diagnosed with a form of dementia and after careful research she transformed her daily diet. As Paula prepares to release what will be her final book, Sheila speaks to her about what food means now. Sheila also meets James Ashwell, a young entrepreneur whose online business venture was inspired by caring for his mother who loved to cook.

Sheila hears from Professor Margaret Rayman, who heads the nutritional medicine course at the University of Surrey. Her book 'Healthy Eating to Reduce the Risk of Dementia' draws on hundreds of academic papers into nutrition and the brain. And in an area which still requires so much research, Sheila speaks to an American academic embarking on what could be the 'gold standard' study into how what we eat affects the development of dementia.

Presented by Sheila Dillon
Produced by Clare Salisbury

Photo credit: Alison van Diggelen.

Available now

30 minutes

Last on

Mon 3 Oct 2016 15:30

From the programme...

Find out more about James Ashwell founder of and their online community.
Healthy Eating to Reduce the Risk of Dementia is a cookbook by Margaret Rayman, Vanessa Ridland, Katie Sharpe & Patsy Westcott 
Find out more about award winning writer Paula Wolfert and her book 'Unforgettable
Dr Martha Clare Morris is working on new research into the MIND diet
Growing Support  is a social enterprise working with people with dementia across the west country.

...and beyond

If you are affected by dementia or want help to find more information on any aspect of food and drink and how it relates to dementia you can try these resources:
The Alzheimer's Society have a section on their website dedicated to food and drink.
Dementia Alliance International is a non-profit organisation exclusively for people with a medically confirmed diagnosis of dementia
Dementia UK offer support for families living with dementia including the Admiral nurse service
Age UK offer resources on living with dementia

Recipes from Healthy Eating to Reduce the Risk of Dementia

Recipes from Healthy Eating to Reduce the Risk of Dementia

Baked Salmon with Roasted Vegetables

Serves 4

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 red onion, cut into wedges
250g cherry tomatoes
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
8 baby potatoes (about 280g), washed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ x 400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (about 115g)
4 salmon fillets (about 150g each)
A large handful of spinach, washed and any tough stalks removed
A handful of coriander, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.

Tip the sweet potatoes into a large, shallow roasting tin and add the onion, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of teriyaki sauce and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss everything together then spread out in an even layer in the tin. Roast for 30 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas and top with the salmon. Season again and drizzle with the remaining teriyaki and olive oil. Roast for another 12 minutes until the salmon is just cooked and the vegetables tender.

Remove the salmon, stir in the spinach and return the salmon to the tin. Scatter with coriander and serve.

Almost any type of vegetable can be used. Try pumpkin, marrows or mushrooms, or try increasing the amount of potatoes relative to sweet potatoes.

Chosen as a source of: vitamins B6, B12, C, D, E, folate, selenium, MUFA, fish/seafood, pulses, polyphenols / Per serving: 561 kcal; 25g fat; 4.2g saturated fat / 4 portions of fruit/vegetables

Thai Red Lentil Soup

Serves 6

1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped (optional)
55g (about ½ jar) red Thai curry paste
250g red lentils, rinsed and drained
2 courgettes (about 300g total), chopped
400ml reduced-fat coconut milk
1 litre vegetable stock
Zest and juice of 1 lime
20g freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley or coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the rapeseed oil in a large pan over a low-medium heat and add the onion, celery, carrots and chilli, if using. Cook gently until softened, about 5–10 minutes. Add the red Thai curry paste and cook for about a minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in the red lentils and then add the courgettes, coconut milk and stock. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, over a low heat for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the lentils are very soft.

Allow to cool slightly then blend until the consistency is to your liking. Stir in the lime zest and juice and the chopped herbs. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve immediately.

Substitute other seasonal vegetables for the courgettes if you wish.

Chosen as a source of: vitamins B6, C, folate, pulses, polyphenols / Per serving: 256 kcal; 8g fat; 4.5g saturated fat / 2 portions of fruit/vegetables

Summer fruit jelly

Serves 4

2 ½ sheets leaf gelatine
375ml sparkling rosé wine
60g caster sugar
320g mixed summer fruits (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries) 

Put the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water to soften. Heat the rosé wine in a small pan and bring to the boil. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat.

Remove the gelatine from the water and squeeze out the liquid. Add to the wine mixture and stir until completely dissolved. Transfer to a jug and leave to cool until tepid.

While the jelly mix is cooling, divide the berries between four individual serving glasses. If the strawberries are very large, cut them into smaller pieces.

When the jelly mixture is cool (but not cold) pour over the fruit in the glasses. The tips of the fruit may not be completely covered but this is fine. Put in the fridge to set for several hour or overnight.

You can replace the gelatine with a low- or reduced-sugar jelly (e.g. raspberry), made up with 250ml of the rosé wine. When cool, add the rest of the wine – this helps retain the bubbles. Substitute white grape juice for the wine if you are making this for children or prefer not to use wine.

Chosen as a source of: vitamin C, polyphenols / Per serving: 157 kcal; 0.1g fat; 0g saturated fat / 1 portion of fruit/vegetables

Healthy Eating to Reduce the Risk of Dementia by Professor Margaret Rayman, Katie Sharpe, Vanessa Ridland & Patsy Westcott. Published by Kyle Books. Photography by Will Heap.


Role Contributor
Presenter Sheila Dillon
Producer Clare Salisbury
Interviewed Guest Paula Wolfert
Interviewed Guest James Ashwell
Interviewed Guest Margaret Rayman


  • Sun 2 Oct 2016 12:32
  • Mon 3 Oct 2016 15:30

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