A diet high in protein rich foods such as meat and legumes may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, a study claims.
Researchers from Edith Cowan University in Western Australia examined the diets of 541 Australians and measured the levels of amyloid beta (Aß) in their brain, which is a precursor to Alzheimer's disease.
They found that participants with higher levels of protein in their diet were less likely to have high levels of Aß in their brain, reducing their risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
The participants were divided into three groups based on their protein intake.
The team found that those with the highest consumption, around 118 gms per day, were 12 times less likely to have high levels of Aß than those in the lowest consumption group, who ate only 54 gms per day.
According to Binosha Fernando, who led the study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, this was the first ever study to examine the relationship between protein consumption and Aß.
"The research clearly demonstrates that the more protein eaten the lower the chances someone has of having a high Aß burden on the brain, which corresponds to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's in the future," she said.
Fernando said it was still unknown what was driving the relationship between high protein intake and low Aß. "One possibility is that previous studies have shown that a high protein diet is associated with lower blood pressure," she said.
"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," said Fernando.
She said the next step was to further examine what role gender, genetics, age and metabolic factors play in the relationship between protein consumption and Alzheimer's disease.
Protein is found in animal products like beef, pork, lamb, eggs, fish and poultry, as well as in plant-based foods like legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
"To get the protective effect that we have demonstrated, you need to be eating about 120 gms of protein each day, which is not too hard," Fernando said. "For example, if you had a mixed bean and tuna salad for lunch, 100 gms 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 Aß burden in your brain," she said.