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Diet and Exercise May Reduce Build Up of Toxic Protein Associated With Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 5.2 million Americans — and we have yet to find a cure. However, a recent study suggests that a combination of diet and exercise may help reduce the build of protein that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Participants in the study included 44 adults between the ages of 40 and 85 with a mean age of 62.6 who were suffering from mild memory changes but did not yet have dementia. The researchers administered an experimental PET scan in order to view the level of plaque and tangles in the brain. The researchers also measured body mass index, levels of physical activity, diet and other lifestyle factors.

Plaque is the deposit of the toxic protein beta-amyloid that builds up in the spaces between nerve cells in the brain and tangles are knotted threads of the tau protein that can be found in brain cells. Both are indicators of Alzheimer’s disease.

After examining the data, the researchers found that a healthy body mass index, physical activity, and following a Mediterranean diet were all associated with lower levels of plaques and tangles on the brain scans.

Researchers from UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on May 13, 2016, in American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

The Mediterranean diet is characterized by high amounts of vegetables, legumes, cereals, fish, fruits and nuts, healthy mono-saturated fats like olive oil, low amounts of saturated fats, moderate alcohol intake, and low intake of meat and dairy products.

Previous research has shown that the Mediterranean diet and other similar diets may improve heart health, lower the risk of diabetes, asthma, lower rates of obesity and possibly even decrease the overall risk of mortality.

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