High protein diets could lower chances of developing Alzheimer's, study says
A new study suggests high protein diets could protect against Alzheimer’s disease, according to an article in Meating Place.
The research, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, looked at protein and fiber in the diets of 541 older Australian adults without signs of cognitive decline. They found the more protein participants ate, the less likely they were to have high levels of the biomarker amyloid beta in their blood, a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.
Those with the most protein-rich diets ate about 118 grams per day from all sources, including meat, fish, dairy and legumes. they were 12 times less likely to have high levels of amyloid beta than those who ate the least, about 54 grams per day.
The researchers behind this latest study said high protein diets are linked to lower blood pressure, and speculated this may be a possible reason for protein's protective role against Alzheimer's disease. High blood pressure and heart disease also are linked to increased risk.
Researchers said this is the first time a link between protein consumption and amyloid beta was found. However, other studies have suggested that the source of dietary protein also may be important. Meat and high-fat dairy consumption previously have been linked to a greater risk of Alzheimer's disease, while a high intake of omega-3 has been tied to lower risk, as have certain probiotic bacteria.
Despite these findings, the science is not strong enough for manufacturers to make convincing on-pack claims about protein and Alzheimer's prevention. Researchers said more evidence is needed to confirm this link. In addition, promoting protein among older consumers has proved more challenging than for other demographics, as baby boomers have focused more on foods for weight management, heart health and digestive health.
However, as the population ages, food firms like Hormel and Nestlé are investing in medical foods to serve the needs of consumers dealing with chronic disease, such as obesity, diabetes, Crohn's disease and dietary intolerances. According to Hormel Specialty Foods, protein – along with calories and hydration – is an important focus for medical foods.
“Personalized health science nutrition is about finding efficient and cost-effective ways to prevent and treat acute and chronic diseases in the 21st century,” Liz Caselli-Mechael, manager of corporate communications at Nestle, told Food Dive last summer. “We see ourselves playing a pioneering and leading role in this new industry, while at the same time keeping the necessary focus on Nestle’s extremely important food, beverages and nutrition business.”
If additional research backs these latest findings, a link between protein and Alzheimer's prevention could convince more seniors to embrace high protein foods — while capturing the attention of more CPG companies hungry for new avenues of growth.