The evaluation of a meta-study reveals a clear correlation: saturated fatty acids increase the risk of dementia as well as Alzheimer’s disease.
Our diet has many effects on our health. But can it specifically affect the risk of developing dementia? Previous studies of larger populations, their diet and health, so-called epidemiological studies, have only been able to find a connection between the amount of fats eaten and Alzheimer’s disease. The results of different studies seemed rather inconsistent. However, Chinese researchers from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou have now determined a correlation between fatty acids and dementia in a meta-analysis, which research has been on this issue so far.
The researchers systematically searched the PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Library medical databases for publication by May 2017. They used the data to identify prospective cohort studies in which people were included as subjects before any disease or symptoms were identified. Importantly, the studies looked at the relationship between dietary fat intake and Alzheimer’s disease or dementia risk. The quantities of saturated fatty acids (an essential component of animal fats) and unsaturated fatty acids (which are mainly found in vegetable fats) were also considered separately.
Overall, the researchers found four independent studies of a total of 8,630 participants and 633 patient cases. The overall picture showed that a large amount of saturated fatty acids (ie more animal fat) in the diet measurably increased the risk of dementia. The risk of Alzheimer’s disease increased by 39 percent and the risk of dementia increased by a massive 105 percent. Based on the study data, an increase in saturated fat intake of 4 g / day was associated with a 15 percent increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. However, there was no indication of a link between the intake of total fat or monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (ie vegetable fats) and the risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
In summary, the review of the 4 separate studies and thousands of participants found clear evidence that saturated fat, such as those found in animal fat, can contribute to the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The total fat levels or fats with unsaturated fatty acids did not appear to be involved in the increased risk of dementia. This suggests once again that nutrition can also be important for later mental health.