About 42 million people around the world have some form of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type, and the rates of this devastating illness are going up.
According to a new study, the single most important risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s is diet. The foods that characterize a typical US/European diet are linked most closely to this illness, namely meat, high-fat dairy products, and foods high in sugar content, such as sweet drinks, cakes and other sweets.
Evidence that this is indeed a main cause of Alzheimer’s is found in the story of the change that happened when Japan switched from their traditional diet which emphasized fish, legumes, grains, fruits and vegetables to a Western diet. In 1985 the Japanese had a 1% rate of Alzheimer’s; By 2008 the rate had risen to 7%.
Data from around the world was presented in a review article from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition called:
“Using Multicountry Ecological and Observational Studies to Determine Dietary Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease.”
This article proposes that people in the United States are particularly at risk for Alzheimer’s, with about 4 out of every 100 people at risk for developing the disease. The review states that this high percentage rate is likely due mainly because of the Western dietary pattern of eating large amounts of meat. William B. Grant, the author of the study, says, “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.”
Grant states in his conclusion:
“Mounting evidence from ecological and observational studies, as well as studies of mechanisms, indicates that the Western dietary pattern — especially the large amount of meat in that diet — is strongly associated with risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and several other chronic diseases. Although the traditional Mediterranean diet is associated with about half the risk for Alzheimer’s disease of the Western diet, the traditional diets of countries such as India, Japan, and Nigeria, with very low meat consumption, are associated with an additional 50% reduction in risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”