A DIET high in fat reduces the risk of getting dementia, research has revealed. It found dementia sufferers were more likely to have low cholesterol levels, while those with high cholesterol - linked to a diet rich in saturated fats - were significantly less likely to have signs of the disease. The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology, examined 3,836 people aged over 50. Taking into account other factors such as diabetes, blood pressure and body mass index, it found a high level of saturated fat-based cholesterol "people over from dementia "may be considered as a potential protective factor against cognitive decline".
The study in Shanghai, China, concluded: "As one of the most essential components of neurons, cholesterol is of great importance to develop and maintain neuronal plasticity and function."
Sir Richard Thompson, past president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: "These findings are concerning and need to be followed up to find out if there is a direct link between low LDL-C [cholesterol] and Alzheimer's. This research ties in with other studies which show having a high cholesterol may not be as bad as once thought and may have benefits."
Leading cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra said: "The evidence has become quite clear that high cholesterol in elderly people is protective against heart disease and now against dementia.
"Public health guidance needs to stop focusing on lowering cholesterol in general and instead focus on improving the profile of cholesterol, by encouraging people to eat a diet devoid of ultra-processed foods, including cutting out sugars and excess starch.
"It's time to stop fearing cholesterol and instead make it your friend."
In a conflicting study published earlier this year, researchers at Cambridge University and Lund University, Sweden, found that in the brain, cholesterol acts as a catalyst in the formation of toxic clusters of amyloid-beta protein, a central player in the development of Alzheimer's.
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