High-protein diet shrinks brain
Past research has suggested that high protein diets, such as the Atkin's diet, can increase the risk of heart disease and kidney problems. However, a new mouse study has found that eating too much protein could also shrink the brain and cause Alzheimer's.
Researchers used mice specially bred to develop Alzheimer's and fed them a number of diets. Some received a normal mouse diet; others a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet; a high-protein, low-carb version (Atkin's); or a high-carb, low-fat option. They then measured the brain sizes of the mice, and the levels of plaques associated with Alzheimer's.
Results showed that those with a high-protein, low-carb diet had smaller brains, with a less developed hippocampus (the area of the brain responsible for memory). They also saw that there were raised levels of plaque proteins in the mice receiving the high-fat low-carb diet, but with no outward signs or symptoms.
Whilst this does not prove that high protein diets lead directly to Alzheimer's, raised levels of plaques in the brain are a strong link with the disease. The research seems to indicate that a balanced diet, with no one food group dominating over the others, is best for overall health.
See also our page on Alzheimer's disease