Diet is thought to play a role, if not decisive, at least significant in the risk of developing dementia, as well as of dying from it. The ratio of vegetable proteins to animal proteins holds a key place.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet will never be enough to protect us 100% protected against dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. However, it can help reduce the risk significantly. How? The are multiple potential answers, with, in particular, a positive or negative cardiovascular and metabolic effect depending on the usual eating habits.

The importance of vegetable proteins

More and more studies are highlighting the important role of proteins in this process, and particularly the benefit of vegetable proteins compared to animal sources. An American team (University of Iowa) looked at data from some 100,000 women aged 50 to 79, followed for just over two decades.

At the start and then at periodic intervals, they filled out a questionnaire specifying their eating habits, such as the consumption of meat, vegetables (fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, etc.), dairy products, eggs, or fish. This information was crossed with the cases of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia.

Compared to those who consume the least vegetable protein, people who eat the most are exposed to a reduced risk of 9% of premature death from all causes, 12% from cardiovascular causes, and 21% more to dementia. Conversely, very high consumption of animal proteins, especially those provided by red meat, is associated with a risk of death from dementia increased by 20%. Eggs also appear to exert a protective effect, with a 14% reduced risk of dementia death in the high consumption group.

Regarding eggs, the researchers insist on the method of preparation: fried or omelet eggs should be eaten in moderation due to the addition of fat for cooking, and possibly other ingredients (such as ham). As the authors explain, “the different sources of dietary protein have varying effects.”

Two points to remember

  • All sources of protein can be integrated into a varied and balanced diet (protein is not the only important nutrient)
  • It is preferable to limit as much as possible the consumption of proteins from meat (red) and to favor vegetable proteins
Joseph Mandell

Mandell is currently working towards a medical degree from the University of Central Florida. His main passions include kayaking, playing soccer and tasting good food. He covers mostly science, health and environmental stories for the Scientific Origin.