Alzheimer’s Disease Risk Higher with Western Diet, Study Says

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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The rate of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is increasing worldwide with the most significant risk factors appearing to be associated with diet, particularly the consumption of sweets, meat, and high-fat dairy products common in the Western diet, according to a new study report.

For example, during Japan’s transition from the Japanese diet to the Western diet Alzheimer’s rates increased from 1 percent in 1985 to 7 percent in 2008. The risk factors, identified by study evidence, also linked eating vegetables, legumes, fruits, grains, fish, and low-fat dairy products to lower risk for Alzheimer’s.

For the report “Using Multicountry Ecological and Observational Studies to Determine Dietary Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease,” published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, William Grant from the Sunlight Nutrition and Health Research Center in San Francisco, reviewed available literature on the links between diet and Alzheimer’s. Additionally, an ecological research study was conducted using data on the prevalence of Alzheimer’s in 10 countries and dietary data in three five-year increments.

The study discussed the specific risk that each country and region faces in Alzheimer’s development based on their dietary habits. The results revealed that the most important dietary link to Alzheimer’s appears to be meat consumption. Eggs and high-fat dairy also contribute to a big extent while higher vitamin D status is associated with reduced risk.

Findings indicate that U.S. residents are particularly at risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Each person in the nation has a 4% chance of developing the disease partially due to a Western dietary habit which typically involves meals high in meat consumption.

In the report, Grant stated that reducing red meat consumption could significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well as of several cancers, diabetes mellitus Type 2, stroke, and chronic kidney disease.

The study concluded: “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.”