Alzheimer’s and Brain Health
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible brain disorder that leads to memory loss, personality changes, and a general decline in cognitive function. However, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. Instead, it is marked by an unnatural breakdown of connections between damaged brain cells and by eventual brain-cell death.
The scariest thing about this disease is that it seems to be new! There is absolutely no mention of anything that could be considered Alzheimer’s disease in any medical, religious, or secular literature before the turn of the last century. Today, the disease kills nearly 54,000 people every year in the U.S. alone and affects millions more.
What is the cause of this deadly and frightening epidemic? Could it be linked to the exponential rise in meat consumption as well as to the unnatural ways that animals raised for food are fed? The evidence points in that direction.
Recent research suggests that Alzheimer’s disease, like heart disease and strokes, is linked to the saturated fat, cholesterol, and toxins found in meat and dairy products. Studies have shown that people who eat meat and dairy products have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than do vegetarians. In contrast, the protective properties of chemicals commonly found in plants—such as antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals—help substantially lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
A study of more than 3,000 elderly Chicago residents found that those who ate lots of vegetables had significantly better memories and cognitive function than those who didn’t eat many vegetables.
Research also shows that diets high in animal fats have the highest correlation with Alzheimer’s disease prevalence. In fact, people who eat large quantities of saturated fats, like those found in meat and dairy products, have twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Meanwhile, people who eat very small amounts of saturated fat in favor of more polyunsaturated fats (found in vegetables and nuts) have a 70 percent reduction in Alzheimer’s risk.
Saturated fats are also known to increase blood cholesterol levels, and elevated cholesterol levels have been implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. In a 21-year aging study, investigators examined the association of total cholesterol with brain plaques and tangles in deceased study participants. The investigators found a strong correlation between increased cholesterol levels and increases in the number of plaques and tangles in the brain. These plaques and tangles are the two main characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease.
It has also long been hypothesized that nerve-cell death such as that found in Alzheimer’s patients is caused by highly reactive molecules called free radicals. Brain damage from free radicals can build up over time, leading to severe mental impairment. This free-radical damage has been observed in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and may be the key to the development of beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles (the two main neuropathological characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease).
Fortunately, a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can provide an abundance of antioxidants that can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, and selenium, can counteract the damaging effects of free radicals in the brain and throughout the body as well as help lower your cholesterol levels. These powerful natural chemicals are found in vegetables, fruits, grains, and beans. Plants are loaded with antioxidants that have been shown to counter the brain-damaging effects of free radicals.
Studies have shown that it is possible to prevent and even reverse the buildup of deadly arterial plaques and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by lowering one’s cholesterol. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease rates have been shown to be 70 percent lower in people who eat a diet rich in whole grains and low in animal fats compared to people who follow a traditional American diet.
Order a free copy of PETA’s “Vegetarian/Vegan Starter Kit,” and start making healthy changes in your life today!