To investigate, researchers looked at the effect of diet on 49 older adults for four weeks. Roughly half of the participants had no signs of cognitive decline, while the other half had mild cognitive impairment.
Researchers assigned participants to one of two diets; one diet was low in saturated fat and had a low glycemic index, the other diet was high in saturated fat and had a high glycemic index.
After four weeks, researchers measured a certain protein, called beta amyloid 42, which is linked to the disease.
Researchers found that healthy participants who ate a diet high in saturated fat had increased levels of the protein.
Conversely, healthy study participants who ate a diet low in saturated fat saw their levels of the protein decrease; they also had better memory test scores.
Researchers reported different results for people with mild cognitive impairment. The high fat diet had no effect on protein levels, while the low fat diet actually increased them.
While more studies are needed on the subject, researchers say diet may be a powerful environmental factor that influences the risk of Alzheimer's disease, however dietary interventions may be less effective once cognitive impairment has begun.
This isn't the first study to show that diet may protect against Alzheimer's disease. In 2009, researchers found that elderly adults who adhered most closely to a Mediterranean-style diet, rich in fish, grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, were up to 40 percent les likely to develop the disease. Likewise, several studies have reported a lower risk of the disease among people who consume fish once or twice a week.
According to the Alzheimer Society, 1 in 11 Canadians over the age of 65 currently has Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia.
To learn more about Alzheimer's disease, click here.
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