Here’s another reason to eat less red meat — or cut it out of your diet completely.
In a study published in December in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, scientists showed that the foods popular in the United States and other “Western dietary pattern” countries could increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 40% to 50%. A plant-forward diet offered the greatest risk reduction.
“The most important dietary risk factors appear to be meat, especially red and processed meat, and [ultraprocessed foods],” authors William Grant and Steven Blake wrote. “Both are important determinants of obesity, also an important risk factor. … Risk reduction of AD is related to higher consumption of fruits, legumes, nuts, omega-3 FAs, vegetables, and whole grains.”
In a report on the study, Newswise stated that meat raised the risk of Alzheimer’s by increasing inflammation, insulin resistance, oxidative stress, saturated fat, advanced glycation end products, and trimethylamine N-oxide.
Why is this important?
Newswise noted that meat and ultraprocessed foods are cheaper than healthier options and that, as a result, “poverty is an important driver of Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S.” It also reported that in the next 15 years, Alzheimer’s disease rates in America are expected to increase by 50% from 2018 levels.
“This calculation is based on comparing trends of obesity in the U.S. with Alzheimer’s disease trends,” Newswise stated. “This comparison shows a 20-year lag between obesity rates and Alzheimer’s disease rates.”
A similar study from October showed people who ate the most processed and unprocessed red meat increased their risk of Type 2 diabetes over those who ate the least by 62%. Each additional daily serving of unprocessed red meat increased the risk by 24%, and each additional daily serving of processed red meat increased the risk by 46%.
This problem also impacts Earth, as agriculture is the largest source of methane, which packs 80 times the planet-warming power of carbon dioxide. A September study showed that replacing half of meat with plant-based alternatives could cut such pollution by one-third by 2030.
What can I do?
“For people willing and able, a low-animal product diet with plenty of anti-inflammatory, low-glycemic load foods may be helpful,” the study authors wrote.
Low-glycemic foods have little effect on blood sugar levels, according to the Mayo Clinic. They include green vegetables, most fruits, raw carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas, and lentils. Foods on the high end of the spectrum include white rice, white bread, and potatoes.
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