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High Iron Diets Linked to Alzheimer’s, Dementia

High Iron Diets Linked to Alzheimer’s, Dementia
May 12
15:52 2016
America is known for fast food and obesity. That’s a fact. But what I’m about to tell you might come as a surprise.

In his book The Mindspan Diet, author and Harvard biologist Preston Estep III outlines what he terms the “mindspan elite” – countries whose populations have low rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease along with long life expectancies.

As I wrote in May, Americans are living longer – but in poorer health. “Life expectancy is only one measure of health, and it doesn’t include quality of life,” says Estep. “If it is accompanied by a very high dementia rate, then that effectively subtracts years.”

6Estep’s book is a guide to following a diet that will reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia and keep your brain young. In it, the following countries are considered mindspan elite:

• Japan
• France
• Italy
• Spain Costa Rica

Despite a life expectancy of 79, the United States is a “mindspan risk” population due to high rates of Alzheimer’s.

Pasta, Bread, & Rice

Estep found many similarities among the diets of the top-ranked countries listed above. Primarily, he found the main food sources to be pasta, bread and rice. This may sound odd in a culture that demonizes carbs, but “refined carbs are the base of the ‘mindspan diet,’” he writes.

The carbs consumed in these countries, however, are not the same highly-enriched products found on US shelves. Breads and pastas in the US tend to be enriched with iron – containing up to 3x the amount found in the non-enriched products available in the Mediterranean (this applies to both white and whole-wheat varieties).

“People with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have substantial amounts of iron and other metals in their brains,” explains Estep, noting that iron can damage cell membranes, DNA, and neurons.

His hypothesis is supported by the fact that countries with the highest iron consumption are also those leading in Alzheimer’s cases. This includes Finland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

bread-pasta-rice-and-potatoesEstep believes excess iron consumption can also result from a diet too high in meat. “Parts of northern Europe lead the world in dementia risk…high meat consumption and [the] resulting high body stores of iron are likely a primary reason they have such a high dementia burden.”

“It’s a myth that we need to eat so much protein, especially from meat,” he continues. “In fact, it’s hard on the kidneys and may promote cancer and accelerate the progression of dementia. Pinto beans, found in the Costa Rican diet, [contain] just the right amount [of protein].”

Another common denominator of the mindspan elite was olive oil – especially among Spanish and Mediterranean diets. “Olive oil is high in monosaturated fatty acid (MUFA), which is less reactive in the body. Foods containing MUFA are believed to help in weight loss and lowering cholesterol in addition to decreasing a person’s risk for heart disease, stroke, and breast cancer. Countries that rely on butter, cheese, and other animal products appear in the “mindspan risk” category.

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April Kuhlman

April Kuhlman

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