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Amino Acid Found in Many Common Foods May Increase Alzheimer's Risk

A diet high in methionine, an amino acid found in many foods including red meats, fish, beans, eggs, garlic, lentils and onions, may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease. This is the finding of a study published in the December 2009 issue of the journal Current Alzheimer's Research.

For the study, Temple University researchers split mice into two groups. The mice, which were the equivalent age of a 70 year old human, were fed either a regular diet for eight months or a diet high in the amino acid methionine.

At the conclusion of the 8 month period, the methionine group had much higher levels of an amino acid called homocysteine which has been shown to significantly increase the risk of Alzheimer's in previous studies.

As methionine levels increase, the body, the body tries to protect itself by transforming it into homocysteine.

The methionine group also had 40% more amyloid plaque, which is used to measure the extent to which Alzheimer's has affected the brain.

In addition, the researchers tested the mice for their ability to learn new tasks. The mice fed methionine performed much more poorly than the other group.

Methionine is an essential amino acid in the body so completely eliminating consumption would be unwise. Instead, people who who consume too much of the amino acid, such as people with diets high in red meat, should consider changing their eating habits.

The findings of this study build on previous research showing that dietary habits do in fact affect your risk of developing Alzheimer's.

The good news is that some foods have actually been shown to potentially decrease rather than increase your risk of Alzheimer's such as grapes, wine, legumes and foods high in antioxidants and essential vitamins.

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