• A high-protein diet, research shows, is effective in reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. (E+/Getty Images)Source: E+/Getty Images
Devouring regular plates full of protein-rich foods can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, according to new Australian research.
Yasmin Noone

22 Feb 2018 - 12:38 PM  UPDATED 22 Feb 2018 - 2:22 PM

We all want to enjoy the spoils of a healthy existence, free of disease as we age. But one of the biggest health threats that might prevent us living out our age-old goals is dementia: the second leading cause of death of all Australians.

According to Dementia Australia, more than 425,415 Australians are currently living with dementia. Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative non-curable illness destroying memory and other vital memory functions, is the most common form of dementia. Statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, shows that it accounts for around 80 per cent of all dementia cases and affects mostly older women.

So how do we prevent Alzheimer’s and reduce our risk of developing the disease? Positive diet and lifestyle habits have been pinpointed as two key protective factors that can help reduce our risk. And this week, it’s been confirmed: a high-protein diet is extremely effective in preventing or delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

According to a new Australian study from Edith Cowan University, a diet high in protein-rich foods can reduce our risk of Alzheimer’s. So if you want to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, a diet rich in eggs, cheddar cheese, milk, beef, chicken, lentils, pinto beans and Bluefin tuna will help protect your brain.

"...if you had a mixed bean and tuna salad for lunch, 100g of chicken and salad for dinner and snacked on a handful of peanuts during the day, you would be getting very close to enough protein to lower your chances of having a high Aβ burden in your brain.”

How does protein prevent Alzheimer’s?

The research, published this week in Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, examined the diets of 541 Australians to determine the impact of protein on levels of amyloid beta (Aβ) levels in the brain – a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.

The participants were divided into three groups based on their protein intake. The results showed that participants who consumed higher levels of protein – around 118 grams a day – were 12 times less likely to have high levels of Aβ than those in the lowest consumption group, who ate only 54 grams per day.

“The research clearly demonstrates that the more protein eaten the lower the chances someone has of having a high Aβ burden on the brain, which corresponds to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s in the future,” says lead researcher Dr Binosha Fernando.

The study is said to be the first ever to examine the relationship between protein consumption and Aβ. 

Charred tuna tataki

There are a lot of hidden elements in this dish but you can’t see them on the plate. One of them is our signature carbonised leek aioli.

To get the protective effect demonstrated in the study, we need to consume about 120g of protein each day. But Dr Fernando says, that “isn’t too hard”.

“For example, if you had a mixed bean and tuna salad for lunch, 100g of chicken and salad for dinner and snacked on a handful of peanuts during the day, you would be getting very close to enough protein to lower your chances of having a high Aβ burden in your brain.”

Despite the scientific advance, researchers still don’t know why protein and Aβ are linked.

“One possibility is that previous studies have shown that a high protein diet is associated with lower blood pressure,” Dr Fernando says.

“High blood pressure is a risk factor for both Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular disease. We also know that developing cardiovascular disease increases your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”

Pinto bean soup (sopa de frijol)

Beans are one of the staples of Mexican cuisine and they come in dozens of varieties. The simple recipe of cooking them gently with onion and an aromatic herb is perhaps the most common method of preparation for any and all beans in Mexico.

Eat your way to good brain health

One of the most regarded high-protein diets in Australia is the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet. The diet is based on studies, conducted by the scientific body, which shows that higher protein diets can also help with weight loss and weight management over the long-term, and that it can reduce the risk of heart disease.

According to Dementia Australia, adopting a healthy diet can help you to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The body also advises people to maintain a diet that is low in saturated and trans-unsaturated fats, and high in omega-3-fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, vegetables and fruits.

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The organisation also suggests that diet impacts your risk of developing heart disease and stroke, which are two risk factors for dementia. So eating a diet that is low in salt and sugar is also recommended. 

International research released last year also showed that the MIND diet  (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) can also reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease. The diet is comprised of foods that are known to reduce blood pressure, from the Mediterranean region. It's big on berries, olive oil and the consumption of fish at least once a week.

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