Low-Fat Diet May Reduce Alzheimer's Risk, Study Shows

A low-fat, carbohydrate-rich diet, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, could lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study.

Researchers at Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle compared the result of HIGH (high-saturated fat) and LOW (low-saturated fat) diets on biomarkers – substances that indicate a particular disease – associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Forty-nine older adults participated in the research, 20 of whom were healthy adults and 29 had already faced a kind of memory loss considered a precursor to Alzheimer’s. They were divided in two groups. Half of each group followed one of the two – HIGH and LOW – dietary patterns.

After four weeks, among the healthy participants on the low-fat diet some biomarkers of Alzheimer’s had reduced, where as those healthy participants who were on high-fat diet showed higher levels of biomarkers that suggest vulnerability to Alzheimer’s.

In the participants who already faced memory impairment, the results were more complex.

Overall, the results show that high-fat foods can affect the brain and cognition, researchers say.

The research findings were published Monday in the June issue of the journal Archives of Neurology.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and is characterized by loss of memory and affects reasoning, planning, language, and perception of the afflicted person.

The risk of Alzheimer’s increases considerably with old age. Most people diagnosed with this degenerative disease are 65 and above.

According to the national Alzheimer’s Association, “The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will grow each year as the proportion of the U.S. population that is over age 65 continues to increase. The number will escalate rapidly in coming years as the baby boom generation ages.”

An estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, the association reports. This figure includes 5.2 million people aged 65 and older and 200,000 individuals under age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.

One in eight people aged 65 and older (13 percent) has Alzheimer’s disease.

While there have been various studies in that past that indicate beneficial effects of healthy foods on cognitive ability, this recent study makes a hopeful case for significant impact diet can have on the Alzheimer’s-triggering substances.

“I think we’re starting to see in epidemiologic studies a connection between diet and brain aging, but I think our study is the first that has really shown, in an experimental fashion, that by creating a very carefully controlled diet you could show these very significant effects,” WebMD quoted study researcher Suzanne Craft, Ph.D., associate director of the Geriatric Research and Clinical Education Center at the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, as saying.

However, experts say that it is too early to draw firm conclusions since with merely 49 participants the study is not comprehensive enough, though it should propel toward a bigger and longer-term research to reach more definitive results, WebMD said.

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