A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition says that the traditional Indian diet, which emphasizes high intake of plant food and low meat consumption, is associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.
About 42 million people worldwide have dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common type. The statistics continue to rise dramatically every year.
Several risk factors are diet-related – they constitute heavy consumption of meat, sweets, and high-fat dairy products, which normally characterise Western diets.
“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,” said study author William B Grant from Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center in San Francisco, California.
For example, when Japan made the nutrition transition from the traditional Japanese diet to the Western diet, Alzheimer’s disease rates rose from 1% in 1985 to 7% in 2008, with rates lagging the nutrition transition by 20-25 years.
Fruits, vegetables, grains, low-fat dairy products, legumes, and fish are associated with reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. To determine dietary risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, the researcher reviewed journal literature.
An ecological study was also conducted using Alzheimer’s disease prevalence data from 10 countries, including India, along with dietary supply data 5, 10, and 15 years before the prevalence data. The other countries from which data was taken include Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Egypt, Mongolia, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, and the US.
Dietary supply of meat or animal products (minus milk) five years before Alzheimer’s disease prevalence had the highest correlations with Alzheimer’s disease prevalence in this study.
The study looked at the risks each country faced for developing Alzheimer’s disease based on dietary habits. The US was particularly vulnerable, with each resident having about a 4 percent chance of developing Alzheimer’s.
“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 said.