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Could More Lean Protein Really Protect Your Brain?

For those who workout, you know that protein is essential for muscle building and recovery. However, its benefits do not end there. According to researchers from Edith Cowan University, high-protein diets may actually reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Study Finds High-Protein Diets May Protect the Brain

After studying more than 500 older adults, it was determined that those who ate the most protein, showcased the lowest levels of amyloid beta — a precursor to Alzheimer’s. In fact, those who consumer approximately 120 grams daily were 12 times more likely to have higher levels of amyloid beta in the brain compared to those who consumed around 54 grams daily.

While focusing on those who ate the most protein, they consumed around 120 grams daily. According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, this value is well above the recommended daily intake. To put this number into context, here are some examples of commonly consumed protein sources:

  • Per 100 grams of chicken breast, you consume approximately 31 grams of protein.

  • When eating 100 grams of salmon, you consume around 20 grams of protein.

  • If you eat 100 grams of almond, you consume 21 grams of protein.

  • One large egg yields approximately 6 grams of protein.

Although 120 grams may seem like a lot, and to many it is, this intake isn’t hard to achieve. If you focused on healthy, protein-dense foods at every meal, your consumption would quickly add up.

It is important to note that it is not clear why protein may influence amyloid beta levels. Some theories include the connection between a high-protein diet and lower blood pressure, reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease. As we know, anything that is good for your heart is typically good for your brain.

Another theory is that high-protein diets are great for weight control. This is based on protein’s ability to make you feel full, preventing you from overeating unhealthy fats and carbohydrates.

The Role of Protein for Optimal Neural Health

Next to water, protein makes up the most weight within the human body. It is a nutrient and an essential building block for muscles, bones, hormones, and the brain.

The research has shown that as people age, their body’s become less efficient at absorbing nutrients — including protein. This means, that in some cases, individuals need to increase their intake of protein in order to meet their daily requirements.

In terms of neural health, the role of protein becomes more complex. It optimizes brain function and is essential when aiming to maintain a healthy heart-brain balance. Although neurons are essentially made of fat, they communicate via proteins. Since brain cells communicate via chemical messaging, protein is required to produce key neurotransmitters.

Serotonin, for instance, is produced from the amino acid L-tryptophan — and amino acids are the building of protein. This means that the foods you consume can affect which chemicals are dominant in your brain. In turn, this affects brain function and even emotion.

This Diet May Reduce Your Risk of Dementia By Up to 53 Percent

Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago developed a diet plan known as the MIND diet. Their findings were published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia. After studying over 920 people between the ages of 58 and 98, they found that those who followed the MIND diet had a level of cognition that was equivalent to someone 7.5 younger.

Even those who followed this plan “moderately well” reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s by approximately one third. Standing for Mediterranean-DASH, this diet plan incorporates elements from these two heart-healthy diets.

Here are some of the diet plan’s recommendations:

  • Consume frequent servings of dark leafy greens, including kale, collards, and spinach. The researchers found that six or more servings a week provides the greatest neural benefits.

  • Nuts are a great brain-healthy snack. They contain fiber, fats, and antioxidants. The MIND diet recommends that you eat nuts five times weekly.

  • Berries also provide protective benefits, especially blueberries. Consume a mixture of berries at least twice weekly.

  • Consume more high-protein, fiber-rich beans. To reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, consume a variety of beans three times weekly. You should also consume whole grains. The recommended amount is at least three servings daily. This may include brown rice, whole oats, whole rye, barley, buckwheat, quinoa, and bulgur.

  • Fish also protects brain function, which is why you should consume wild-caught, fatty fish once a week. Poultry is also part of this brain-healthy plan. The MIND diet recommends that you consume two or more servings a week. Also, limit your intake of red meat to no more than four servings weekly.

  • In contrast, avoid margarine and limit your intake of butter. Instead, consume a quality source of olive oil. You should also reduce your intake of cheese to no more than once a week and significantly reduce your intake of sugar. The same is true for fried and processed foods.

For more information, please refer to the following articles:

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