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Alzheimer's and dementia rates rise as nations adopt the westernized diet of burgers, fries, steaks and fried chicken

Alzheimer''s disease

(NaturalNews) As the Western diet spreads around the world, so do Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

The researchers were not surprised by the findings. A large body of research shows that diets high in junk food, meat, and refined sugars increase the risk of Alzheimer's, while traditional diets rich in real, whole foods -- mostly vegetables -- reduce the risk.

The United States has the second-highest rate of Alzheimer's worldwide, with an estimated 5 million people affected. The number of cases is expected to hit nearly 14 million by 2050.

Surprise: diet and exercise keep you healthy

The dietary risk factors for Alzeheimer's disease are identical to those for heart disease, as are lifestyle risks such as smoking and lack of exercise. In fact, Alzheimer's risk tracks heart disease risk so closely that some doctors call them "twin pathologies."

So as people around the world increasingly turn to junk food instead of traditional diets, their rates of dementia skyrocket.

"We have a whole new group of people who are malnourished because they eat foods that are not good for them, that have no nutritional benefit," said ecologist David Tillman of the University of Minnesota, who was not involved in the study. "Processed foods have low nutritional value. Diets low in fruit and vegetables have a strong negative health impact."

Japan is a classic example of this trend, study author William B. Grant noted. The traditional Japanese diet is heavy in grains and fish, which are both linked to lower dementia risk. Since the 1980s, Japanese people have increasingly adopted a Western diet rich in red meat, processed foods, sugar and saturated fat. The Alzheimer's rate in Japan has correspondingly jumped from just 1 percent in 1985 to 7 percent in 2008.

"Cold water ocean fish of the type likely consumed in Japan are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, both of which reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease," Grant said. "As Japan underwent the nutrition transition . . . chronic diseases such as cancers and Alzheimer's disease increased dramatically."

But in countries such as Egypt and India, where traditional diets still dominate, Alzheimer's rates remain low even among the elderly.

Eat vegetables, avoid junk food

So what should you eat to stave off dementia? The same thing you should eat for good health overall: a diet low in processed foods, rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil, and fish, and with low to moderate consumption of dairy, poultry and red meat. In other words, something very similar to the Mediterranean diet, which research has shown to reduce Alzheimer's risk and also slow disease progression.

For those seeking more structured recommendations, one option is the MIND diet, developed by researchers from Chicago's the Rush University Medical Center. One study found that people who followed the diet loosely cut their Alzheimer's risk by 35 percent, while those who followed it strictly reduced their risk by 50 percent.

The diet recommends 6 or more servings of green, leafy vegetables per week, along with five servings of nuts. Fish should be eaten once a week and poultry twice. Olive oil should be the primary cooking oil, and the diet should also contain plenty of vegetables, berries and whole grains. A glass of red wine should be drunk five times a week. Red meat should be kept to three or fewer servings weekly, and fast or fried food to one. Sweets should be eaten less than 5 times a week, and cheese less than once.

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