The number of Americans who are suffering from Alzheimer's disease is increasing at an alarming rate. Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develop Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is a neurological disorder in which the death of brain cells causes memory loss and cognitive decline. This neurodegenerative disease destroys nerve connections in the brain and makes it extremely difficult for an individual to perform simple tasks, such as swallowing and moving around. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-70 percent of all cases of dementia.
Alzheimer's disease affects both the old and the young. Out of the roughly 5 million Americans estimated to be living with Alzheimer's disease, 20,000 of them are below the age of 65. Unfortunately, the number of Americans suffering from Alzheimer's disease is expected to triple by 2050 to about 16 million. So what factor could be responsible for the rapid rise of this deadly neurodegenerative disease that robs individuals of their memories? The answers could lie in our dietary choices.
Evidence from various scientific studies indicates that certain dietary components influence Alzheimer's disease risk either as a protective factor or as a risk factor. The findings of a 2016 study that appeared in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition show that high dietary ingestion of diets rich in meat, sweets, and high-fat dairy products increased the odds of developing Alzheimer's disease. The Western dietary pattern encourages the consumption of meat, animal fats, refined grains, dairy products, and sugar-based deserts—all of which have been shown to elevate Alzheimer's disease risk.
Epidemiological evidence from Japan corroborated the results of this 2016 study on Western Diets and Alzheimer's disease risk. The rise in the number of Alzheimer's disease cases in Japan coincided with the shift from the traditional Japanese diet to a Western diet. Alzheimer's disease rose from 1% in 1985 when the majority of Japan's populations were still consuming their traditional diets to 7% in 2008 after Western diets had become very popular in Japan. The Japanese case study supports the growing body of evidence that Western diets may play a vital role in the development of Alzheimer's disease.
The most important risk factor of Alzheimer's disease seems to be the link to diet. Dietary choices can affect an individual's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Avoiding foods promoted by the Western dietary pattern, such as meat, refined grains, sweets, and dairy products, can significantly reduce an individual's chances of getting this deadly neurodegenerative disease that kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.