High-protein diets may shrink the brain as well as the waistline, raising the risk of Alzheimer's disease in later life. In tests, the brains of mice fed Atkins-like diets, rich in protein and low in carbohydrate, were five per cent lighter than those of other creatures. Importantly, areas key to memory were underdeveloped.
Although it is unclear if high protein diets have the same effect in people, it is already known that low-fat diets packed with fruit and vegetables, cut the risk of dementia. The US researchers said that looking at how different nutrients affect human brain health could lead to new ways of staving off the disease that affects 400,000 Britons.
With the number of sufferers expected to double within a generation, any method of cutting the number of cases could have a huge impact on public health. S am Gandy, a leading expert on Alzheimer's disease, looked at the effect of various diets, including one high in protein and low in carbohydrate on the brains of mice. The creatures had been genetically-engineered to make amyloid-beta, the poisonous plaques blamed for brain cell death and memory loss in Alzheimer's.
Those given high-protein foods had lighter brains than other animals, the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration reports.