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Protein intake may lower Alzheimer’s risk

Eating enough foods high in protein such as chicken, tuna, lentils and peanuts may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests.

Researchers at Edith Cowan University’s School of Medical and Health Sciences examined the diets of 541 Australians and measured the levels of amyloid beta (Ab) in their brain (Ab are pieces of protein which clump together in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease).

The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found participants with higher levels of protein in their diet were less likely to have high levels of Ab in their brain.

Those with the highest consumption, around 118g per day, were 12 times less likely to have high levels of Ab than those in the lowest consumption group, who ate only 54g of protein per day.

“The research clearly demonstrates that the more protein eaten the lower the chances someone has of having a high Ab burden on the brain, which corresponds to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s in the future,” lead researcher Dr Binosha Fernando said.

The mechanism driving the association between high protein intake and low Ab is not known.

Dr Fernando says one theory is that adequate protein intake reduces blood pressure, 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,” she said.

Protein is found in animal products like beef, pork, lamb, eggs, fish and poultry, as well as plant-based foods like legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

To get the protective effect demonstrated by Dr Fernando and her team, people would need to eat about 120g of protein each day.

“For example, if you had a mixed bean and tuna salad for lunch, 100g 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 Ab burden in your brain,” Dr Fernando said.

Amount of protein in common foods per 100g:

* Chicken 30g

* Beef (steak) 26g

* Tuna (Bluefin) 30g

* Lentils 10g

* Pinto beans 20g

* Peanuts 26g

* Milk 3.4g

* Cheese (cheddar) 25g

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