Here’s a good health tip for those of you worried about the dread disease robbing so many of our senior citizens of their golden years.
And the news isn’t great for meat-eaters.
Many scientists now believe that diet and lifestyle changes could potentially prevent millions of cases a year.
That’s because there is a substantial body of evidence strongly associating Alzheimer’s disease with clogged arteries. And clogged arteries are fixable with diet.
If you live in rural India, you have a lower possibility of getting the disease than anyone else in the world.
Why? The balance of evidence suggests it’s because the people there eat traditional, plant-based diets.
As we know, the typical Western diet is very different. For instance, the amount of animal fat we consume shot up by nearly 600 per cent between 1961 and 2008.
And the closest correlation researchers have found between diet and dementia is consumption of animal fat.
Most Alzheimer’s sufferers aren’t diagnosed until their 70s. However, we now know that their brains began deteriorating long before that.
Based on thousands of post mortems, pathologists have detected the first silent stages of the disease — amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain — in half of people by age 50, and even 10 per cent of those in their 20s. Yet even for them, full-blown Alzheimer’s disease may be preventable.
The Mediterranean diet, for example, which is higher in vegetables, beans, fruits and nuts, and lower in meats and dairy products, has been associated with slower cognitive decline and lower risk of Alzheimer’s.
This conclusion aligns with that of the Harvard Women’s Health Study, which found that higher saturated fat intake (predominantly from dairy, meat and processed foods) was associated with a significantly worse outcome. Thus, women who ate the most saturated fat had a 60-70 per cent greater chance of cognitive deterioration over time. And women who ate the least had the brain function, on average, of women six years younger.
So what is so great about a plant-based diet?
Well, whole plant foods don’t clog up arteries with cholesterol, for a start.
They also contain thousands of compounds with antioxidant properties, which may protect against the ‘rusting’ of the brain.
In 2012, Harvard University researchers looked at the diets and health of 16,000 women who’d been studied since 1980. They found that those who consumed at least one serving of blueberries and two servings of strawberries each week had slower rates of cognitive decline — by as much as two and a half years.
Another study, which followed nearly 2,000 people for about eight years, found that people who regularly drank fruit and vegetable juices appeared to have a 76 per cent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Meanwhile, those who’d eaten vegetarian diets for 30 years or more had a three times lower risk of suffering dementia, compared with those eating meat more than four times a week.
Lots of people believe in statins as a means of fighting Alzheimer’s, but it turns out that statins themselves can cause cognitive dysfunction. Avoiding animal fat seems to be the best way to avoid the disease.
And it also turns out that including saffron in your diet is nearly a miracle cure. Go figure.