Low-protein, high-carb diet found to dramatically reduce dementia risk
03/24/2019 // Zoey Sky // Views

Despite the medical advances in the last few years, there is still no definitive cure for dementia. That's why it's best to prevent it from happening in the first place. According to an Australian study, following a low-protein, high-carbohydrate (LPHC) diet can help boost brain function in mice. Researchers believe that these findings could one day be used to prevent neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia.

For the study, which was published in the journal Cell Reports, researchers from The University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre fed mice complex carbohydrates derived from starch, along with a protein called casein that is found in dairy products like cheese and milk.

Casein has several bioactive peptides that can boost your immune and digestive systems, as well as improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and reducing the formation of blood clots.

These peptides in casein function similarly to angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, a class of drugs often prescribed to control blood pressure. Additionally, casein peptides can bind to and carry minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, improving their digestibility in your stomach.

The LPHC diet and its effects on brain health

Wahl noted that a century’s worth of existing data identified calorie restriction as the "most powerful diet to improve brain health and delay the onset of neurodegenerative disease in rodents." However, most people have difficulty cutting their calorie intake, especially in Western societies where food is readily accessible.


Based on their research, the LPHC diet showed similar protective benefits in the part of the brain that manages learning and memory.

The researchers focused on the hippocampus, the first part of the brain that deteriorates when a person has a neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s. Wahl said that their data support the fact that LPHC diets can improve brain and overall health as humans grow older.

The researchers tested the learning and memory of mice using various spatial awareness and memory tests. They reported that some mice showed greater improvements in overall health and brain health – male and female mice at both young and old age – than those on a low-calorie diet.

The mice observed in the study were fed 20 percent fat, five to 19 percent protein, and different amounts of carbohydrates. In comparison, a typical Australian human may follow a diet that contained at least 40 percent protein.

Wahl said their findings are promising in that they were able to replicate the same kind of gene changes in the part of the brain responsible for memory, which is a change that is seen when an individual severely restricts his or her calorie intake.

Cut down your risk of dementia through diet

There are no effective pharmaceutical treatments for dementia. Devin Wahl, the study's lead author, explained that while it is possible to slow the progress of the condition, there is no way to stop it entirely.

But the researchers are hopeful, especially since they can now determine which diets can positively affect how the brain ages.

People from parts of the Mediterranean are used to following an LPHC diet. Similarly, people in Okinawa, Japan, follow a traditional diet made up of nine percent protein and includes a lot of sweet potatoes. (Related: Mediterranean Diet found to slash risk of dementia by 35%.)

The reverse – a high-protein, low-carb diet – is steadily becoming more popular in the West after the Paleo diet also rose to fame.

Consult your healthcare provider before you switch to the LPHC diet, especially if you are:

  • Prone to or already have diabetes – A high-carb diet will increase your blood sugar levels, which then makes your pancreas produce more insulin to handle the excess glucose. If followed for extended periods, a high-carb diet can make your cells resistant to insulin, a major cause of Type 2 or adult-onset diabetes.
  • Obese or overweight – A high-carb diet full of "empty" carbs (e.g., bread, pasta, and other starches), may result in an excess of calories and significant weight gain.

If you truly wish to lower your risk of dementia, making healthy lifestyle changes is the best way to go. Cut back on alcohol, exercise regularly, and follow a healthy diet – which includes cutting back on empty carbs.

Sources include:




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