High Carb Diets Raise Alzheimers Risk
There are a number of reasons why a high-carb diet is not wise, but new research has added yet another reason why you cut down on the pasta: You are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.
A new study that was recently released found that older adults who load up on carbs have close to four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.
Researchers also said that sugars played a role in the development of MCI, which very often serves as a precursor to Alzheimer's, according to study results published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. By comparison, eating additional proteins and some fats can offer protection from MCI, USA Today said, citing the journal.
A team of scientists from Mayo Clinic tracked 1,230 people aged 70-89 and asked if they would provide information on what kinds of foods they at the previous year.
Stopping development of MCI is key
Among the group only the 940 people who showed no appreciable signs of cognitive impairment were asked to return in 15 months for follow-up examination. By the fourth year of the study, 200 of the 940 were beginning to show small signs of cognitive impairment, including problems with memory, judgment, thinking and language.
Lead author Rosebud Roberts, a professor in the department of epidemiology at the clinic, which is located in Rochester, Minn., said not everyone who develops MCI progresses to Alzheimer's disease, which affects some 5.2 million adults around the country. Those numbers are expected to triple by 2050, as Baby Boomers continue to age.
"The research field is trying to find things that can help reduce risk factors for pre-dementia problems," Roberts said, according to USA Today. "If we can stop people from developing MCI, we hope we can stop people from developing dementia. Once you hit the dementia stage, it's irreversible."
Among the foods regarded as complex carbohydrates: rice, pasta, bread and cereals. The digestive system turns them into sugars. Fruits, vegetables and milk products are simple carbs.
"A high-carbohydrate intake could be bad for you because carbohydrates impact your glucose and insulin metabolism," says Roberts. "Sugar fuels the brain, so moderate intake is good. However, high levels of sugar may actually prevent the brain from using the sugar - similar to what we see with Type 2 diabetes."
He said high sugar levels - which are prevalent in high-carb diets - could affect blood vessels in the brain, and might also play a role in the development of beta amyloid plaques, which are proteins that are toxic to brain health and are found in the brains of people who are affected by Alzheimer's. Scientists don't yet know what causes the disease; however, they do suspect a buildup of beta amyloid is a leading cause.
Study offers some hope
Here are some of the study's primary findings:
-- People whose diets were the highest in fat (nuts and healthy oils, for instance) were 42 percent less likely to develop cognitive impairment, while those who had the highest intake of protein (chicken, meat, fish) saw their risk reduced by 21 percent.
-- Many popular diets, including the Mediterranean (fish, protein from poultry and lots of plant-based foods and healthy fats) and Atkins (low-carb diet featuring plenty of meats), make pitches for multiple health benefits that are derived from lowering carb intake, which includes a reduced risk for heart disease, diabetes and improved brain health.
"This (study) is consistent with what we've seen in past published research on how a lower carbohydrate diet can help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's," Colette Heimowitz, vice president of Nutrition and Education for Atkins Nutritionals Inc., told the paper.
While there currently is no treatment for Alzheimer's besides drugs, Roberts said the study at least offers some hope because "it shows a modifiable way we can reduce risk for the disease.
"It is important to eat a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat," he added.
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