The so-called “Western Diet” is associated with high intakes of red meat, salt, sweets, high-fat dairy and “junk” foods, along with low levels of fruits, grains and vegetables. This dietary pattern has been linked to a host of negative health effects – sometimes referred to as “Western Diseases” – which include heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Now, a new report published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, finds evidence that high levels of meat consumption is strongly associated with elevated risk of Alzheimer’s disease in addition to other chronic diseases.
The study, “Using Multicountry Ecological and Observational Studies to Determine Dietary Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease,“ includes a review of available literature on the correlation between diet and Alzheimer’s as well as ecological and observational research using data on the prevalence of Alzheimer’s in 10 countries (Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Egypt, India, Mongolia, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, and the United States). The study’s overall findings show that following the Western Diet with large amounts of meat is strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease prevalence while high consumption of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and low-fat dairy is linked to a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s.
Residents of the United States are at particular risk, according to the study. The continuing popularity of the Western Diet in the United States means each person faces about a 4% chance of developing Alzheimer’s. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans have been diagnosed with the disease. William B. Grant, who authored the study states 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.”
He adds, “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.”
It is clear that a healthy diet full of plant-based foods can reduce risks for chronic Western Diseases and protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. So, remember to eat your vegetables – and fresh fruits, grains and low-fat dairy – for healthy body and mind.