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Could beef be the perfect food to prevent Alzheimer’s?

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Aging ranchers have plenty of things to think about, such as transitioning the operation, working with the next generation and making plans for retirement. More than likely, another top concern is health.

As we advance in years, it seems like more health issues tend to crop up. Common problems like diabetes, heart disease and strokes are prevalent in our society, and there’s no shortage of articles — many of which are very conflicting — about the best diets to prevent these diseases and live a healthy life well into our twilight years.

READ: What will your family legacy be?

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States today, with more than 5 million Americans currently living with the disease. Since 2000, deaths by heart disease have decreased by 14% while deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased by 89%. The disease, which causes memory loss and dementia, kills more people than breast and prostate cancer combined.

Watching a family member suffer from this cruel disease is heart-wrenching, and I know many ranching families and their aging loved ones are impacted by this disease. That’s why I was so interested to read some recent articles that indicate beef as a healthy food to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s.

According to new research reported by Psychology Today, “We used to feel helpless in the face of Alzheimer’s because we were told that all of the major risk factors for this devastating condition were beyond our control: age, genetics, and family history. We were sitting ducks, living in fear of the worst—until now.

“Eating too many of the wrong carbohydrates too often is what causes blood sugar and insulin levels to rise, placing us at high risk for insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s. You can’t do anything about your genes or how old you are—but you can certainly change how you eat.

READ: What are the top food priorities for Baby Boomers?

“It’s not about eating less fat, less meat, more fiber, or more fruits and vegetables. Changing the amount and type of carbohydrate you eat is where the money’s at. Replace most of the carbs on your plate with delicious, healthy fats and proteins to protect your insulin signaling system.”

So what kinds of healthy fats and proteins should we be looking for? Turns out, despite the numerous anti-red meat articles that currently exist, the simple answer is beef provides the perfect saturated fats and nutrient-dense protein per serving to fight and prevent Alzheimer’s.

In a blog post, David Perlmutter, MD, a nationally-recognized neurologist, summarizes recent research conducted at the Mayo Clinic. He writes, “We need more fat in the diet to protect the brain against dementia, not carbs at the expense of healthy fats, and the Mayo Clinic totally agrees.

“Researchers reported the results of a study in which they explored the role of diet as it relates to dementia risk. They followed a group of over 2,000 elderly individuals for close to four years and carefully monitored their dietary intake of protein, fat and carbohydrate. The subjects also underwent mental evaluations every 15 months to determine if they were developing any issues related to dementia.

“The results of the study were impressive by any measure. The risk of dementia in those at the higher end of the scale, in terms of carbohydrate consumption, increased by close to 90%! Those whose calories came more from fat were found to have a reduced risk of developing dementia by around 44%.”

In the discussion section of the report, the authors call attention to other studies that relate these dietary parameters to brain health and function. They summarize research describing how reducing carbohydrate consumption is associated with reduced risk of mental decline.

In addition, they point out results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, revealing that a diet with a high percentage of fat is associated with better processing speed, learning and memory while lower processing speed was associated with a diet that favored higher carbohydrate foods. This information is important because, beyond looking at risk for developing dementia, it relates diet to moment-to-moment brain function.

Perlmutter recommends a diet rich in animal proteins and fats, such as red meat and eggs, to fuel the brain and ward off diseases like Alzheimer’s.

If this isn’t a positive story to tell, I don’t know what is! Beef could be the key ingredient to a long, healthy life. We, as an industry, just need to find a way to clearly express this message to our consumers.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

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