Eating too much meat may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, according to a new study that suggests a build-up of iron in the brain could contribute to the neurodegenerative disease.
Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles studying brain scans of patients with Alzheimer’s found a build-up of iron in the part of the brain generally damaged in the early stages of the disease.
They also compared the scans with scans from healthy brains, and found that high levels or iron were linked to tissue damage.
Since red meat is high in iron, cutting back on the amount we eat could help protect our brains, the research suggests.
“The increase in iron is occurring together with the tissue damage,” said study lead Professor George Bartzokis. “We found that the amount of iron is increased in the hippocampus and is associated with tissue damage in patients with Alzheimer’s but not in the healthy older individuals, or in the thalamus. So the results suggest that iron accumulation may indeed contribute to the cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
“The accumulation of iron in the brain may be influenced by modifying environmental factors, such as how much red meat and iron dietary supplements we consume and, in women, having hysterectomies before menopause.”
Most recent studies into the causes of the disease have focused on the accumulation in the brain of certain proteins – beta-amyloid or Tau – which either disrupt or kill nerve cells.
While cells cannot function without iron, which occurs naturally in the body, many believe it can become toxic in high concentrations.