Alzheimer's disease researchers have long struggled to understand why plaques build up the brains of those suffering from the condition, and some have tentatively identified various proteins that may play a role. But as the disease becomes more prevalent worldwide, one factor seems consistent: your garbage Western diet full of eggs, meat, and high-fat dairy.
A new study surveying the scientific literature on Alzheimer's found that Western diets increase the risk of developing the disease. Compared to diets of fruits, vegetables, grains, fish, and low-fat dairy—healthy stuff—the sugary, fatty crap many of us Westerners eat is more likely to lead to Alzheimer's. The study notes that when Japan began to shift away somewhat from its super-healthy traditional diet in the mid 1980s to include Western fare, rates of Alzheimer's rose from 1 percent in 1985 to 7 percent by 2008. The study goes so far as to say that the role of diet may be the single-most important factor in the development of Alzheimer's.
As usual, meat earns a special shellacking, with the study identifying meat as the biggest dietary culprit in terms of bringing about Alzheimer's. Study author William Grant wrote that "reducing meat consumption could significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease as well as of several cancers, diabetes mellitus type 2, stroke, and, likely, chronic kidney disease."
Past research has identified some interesting findings about the links between diet and Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Last year, a study suggested that three glasses of Champagne a week could help ward off dementia. Similarly, beer could help. Another study, in line with the findings of Grant's study, found that bread consumption could lead to Alzheimer's. Some researchers even developed a test with which they could diagnose Alzheimer's by determining if patients were able to smell peanut butter.
The study proposes that comparing diets of individual countries can be useful in determining risk factors for Alzheimer's. The Mediterranean diet leads to an Alzheimer's rate that is about half of that of Western diets, but other traditional diets are even better. A Japanese, Indian, or Nigerian diet drops the risk by another 50 percent. The United States—a country in which people have a 4 percent chance of developing Alzheimer's—wouldn't do well in many side-by-side comparisons. So the buzzkill doctor's advice, as always, is to chill on the burgers, fries, and barbecue.