Diets prevalent in countries like China, Japan, and India, which include plant-based and traditional foods, might lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared to the Western diet, a study suggests.
Researchers from the Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Centre, US, found that Alzheimer’s disease rates rise in these countries as they make the nutrition transition to the Western diet.
The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, discusses in detail the role of diet in modifying the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
It identifies dementia risk factors, including higher consumption of saturated fats, meat, especially red meat such as hamburgers and barbeque, as well as processed meats such as hot dogs, and ultra-processed foods high in sugar and refined grains.
This review also analyses why certain foods increase or reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
For example, meat raises the risk of dementia the most by increasing risk factors such as inflammation, insulin resistance, oxidative stress, saturated fat, advanced glycation end products, and trimethylamine N-oxide.
This study also outlines several foods that are protective against Alzheimer’s disease, such as green leafy vegetables, colourful fruits and vegetables, legumes (like beans), nuts, omega-3 fatty acids, and whole grains.
Ultra-processed foods can increase the risk of obesity and diabetes, themselves risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers said.
Ultra-processed foods often lack the very ingredients found in whole plant foods that keep dementia away, such as anti-inflammatory components and antioxidants, they said.
“Evidence from diverse perspectives support that a diet that emphasises fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and de-emphasises meat, especially red meat, saturated fats, and ultra-processed foods is associated with lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Edward Giovannucci, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard University.
“Physical inactivity and obesity also contribute to higher risk.
In addition, the dietary and lifestyle patterns associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease are known to affect the constellation of mechanisms believed to increase risk, including inflammation, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress, among others,” Giovannucci, who was not involved in the study, said.