Drop that burger and pick up an onion bhaji

‘Western diet’ carries four times the risk of dementia compared to traditional Indian food

 

Researchers from San Francisco have been comparing the results of studies from around the world and have concluded that the normal diet of most people living in the West (primarily Europe, the Americas and Australasia) exposes them to the greatest risk of dementia.

More specifically it is the high level of red meat and dairy products that has traditionally formed a large part of that diet which causes the most concern.

The researchers aren’t making the claim that diet is a direct cause of dementia, though scientists are calling for more research into possible links between foods and various types forms of the condition, they are simply drawing a statistical conclusion from the evidence of previous studies.

The most common cause of dementia is age, although there are currently some 40,000 patients in the UK under the age of 65 who have been diagnosed with early onset dementia.

Genetics also plays a huge role in the development of the condition; a history of dementia in the family is often an indication of higher risk for family members.

Nonetheless lifestyle factors such as smoking, excessive drinking and poor health and fitness have all been shown to increase the probability of developing some form of dementia.

Diet plays an important role in minimising that element of personal risk.

Increasing the proportion of fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy and fish in our regular menus is one way to improve your chances.

In comparing the various ‘traditional’ cuisines around the world against the incidence of dementia within a wide variety of studies, the research team found that the ‘Mediterranean’ diet could reduce the risk by as much as 50%.

Even more of a stark contrast was drawn when comparisons were made with traditional cuisines with even lower meat content, particularly Indian and Japanese diets.

With their focus on rice (grains), vegetables, fruit, poultry, fish and non-dairy products like coconut milk, the Asian dishes were found to reduce the risk of dementia by a further 50% on the Mediterranean style.

Compared to our usual fare then, it seems that Indian and Japanese foods – which have already become widely popularised throughout the world – can lower the dementia risk by up to 75%.

As our population grows older dementia is the only cause of death that continues a steady rise and is already the leading cause of death for women in England and Wales.

With over 850,000 sufferers in the UK, a figure that is expected to pass the million mark by 2025, it may well be time to recalibrate our traditional tastes and look to the East.

Food for thought at least.

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