How A Plant-Based Diet Protects Your Brain

If you’ve already adopted a plant-based lifestyle, you probably know how this choice helps to lower your risk of heart disease, virtually every kind of cancer, and most chronic health conditions. What you may not know, however, is that eating a plant-based diet drastically reduces your risk of developing dementia.

This Factor That Can Double Your Risk of Dementia

Dementia is the number one health concern for many individuals around the world. There is real reason for this worry: data from the 2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report issued by the Alzheimer’s Association shows that one in nine people age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.vibrant salad in a brown stoneware dish on a cutting board

So far, identifying and treating risk factors has proved to be the most effective way to combat dementia. One such risk factor is elevated levels of homocysteine, an amino acid known to cause inflammation. Evidence suggests that people with elevated levels of homocysteine have twice the typical risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The good news is that according to a study published recently in Preventative Medicine, just one week of plant-based eating can significantly lower blood levels of homocysteine.

Why a Plant-Based Diet Lowers Homocysteine

The profound impact of a plant-based diet on homocysteine levels makes perfect sense when you know a bit more about where homocysteine comes from, and how the body clears it from the bloodstream.

Homocysteine results from the way our bodies metabolize methionine, an amino acid found mostly in animal protein. Testing reveals that meat-heavy meals can cause homocysteine levels to spike. So, decreasing your methionine intake by eating a diet rich in vegetables and with low or no animal protein is an excellent way to keep your homocysteine levels in check.

vegetable soup in a black bowl on a black backgroundIn addition to reducing the amount of homocysteine your body produces, a plant-based diet provides high quantities of the three vitamins needed to flush homocysteine from your system…

  • Folate
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B6

The researchers who conducted the Preventative Medicine study also believe that an increased fiber intake may be a factor in the rapid and significant drop in homocysteine levels. Consuming a gram of fiber can increase folate levels by nearly 2%.

The One Nutritional Deficiency You MUST Avoid

Strangely, although one week of plant-based eating can be akin to a miracle treatment for elevated levels of homocysteine, those who eat plant-based diets long term can put themselves at risk for hyperhomocysteinaemia—an extreme overload of homocysteine in the blood.

The reason for this seeming paradox is that vegetarian or vegans diet can result in a vitamin b12 deficiency. One you correct that deficiency, you can experience the full benefits of a plant-based diet. Health experts and nutritionists point to three easy ways to do ensure that you’re getting enough vitamin b12…

  • Eat enough foods fortified with vitamin B12 to provide you with at least three micrograms of B12 daily.
  • Take a daily B12 supplement that provides at least 10 micrograms.
  • Take a weekly B12 supplement that provides at least 2,000 micrograms.

Experts say toxicity isn’t a concern for vitamin B12, so feel free to mix and match the options above.