High Cholesterol Levels Linked to Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

High cholesterol levels were associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s in a recent Japanese study. The way in which high cholesterol levels affect changes in the brain are consistent with the way Alzheimer’s changes the brain as well.

The study published in the journal Neurology followed 147 Japanese adults 10 to 15 years before their deaths, 34 percent of then had been diagnosed with dementia. Tissue samples were taken from their brains after their deaths.

Those who had total cholesterol levels over 224 mg/dL later in life (total cholesterol levels below 200 mg/dL should be the goal) before they had any symptoms of Alzheimer’s were at least seven times more likely to have beta-amyloid plaque in their brains by the time they died, compared to people whose cholesterol was under 173 mg/dL.

This is now yet another link perhaps between diet and Alzheimer’s since cholesterol is often diet related. Another recent study published in the journal Archives of Neurology suggests that there may be dietary changes that can help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The study, conducted at Columbia University in New York, followed the diets of more than 2,000 adults over age 65 over a period of years; during the study, 253 developed Alzheimer’s.

During the study, participants provided information about their diets and were assessed for the development of Alzheimer’s every 1 1/2 years. After nearly four years, researchers identified a dietary pattern strongly associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s, characterized by a higher intake of salad dressing, nuts, fish, tomatoes, poultry, cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, bok choy, and cauliflower), fruits, and leafy green vegetables, and a lower intake of high-fat dairy, butter, red meat and organ meat. Participants who adhered most closely to this dietary pattern had a 38 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s compared to those who adhered least closely to this dietary pattern. The use of alcohol or dietary supplements did not affect risk levels in this study.

The brain protective diet was noted to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin E, and folate, and relatively lower in saturated fat and Vitamin B12. The study’s authors note that each nutrient likely aids in Alzheimer’s prevention in different ways. For example, vitamin E offers its strong antioxidant effect for the prevention of the disease, while omega-3 fatty acids may be related to dementia and cognitive function through an anti-inflammatory effect.

While the causes and effective treatment of Alzheimer’s disease are far from concrete, this latest research offers a promising, diet-based approach toward prevention of the disease. In the past, studies have focused on individual nutrients and their effects on patients. This study focused on dietary patterns of food high in nutrients associated with Alzheimer’s risk prevention, making it more applicable to everyday living.

For more information on foods that help stave off dementia, read9 Foods to Remember to Eat.


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