Researchers at USC have announced that a protein-restricted diet appears to improve memory and slow the advance of Alzheimer’s disease in laboratory mice.
For their research, the scientists placed mice with advanced stages of the dementia on a low-protein diet with amino acid supplements every other week for four months.
The researchers then ran the mice through mazes and found that those on the low protein diet had improved cognitive ability compared to a control group of mice that ate a higher-protein diet.
The mice on the low-protein diets also showed lower levels of the growth hormone IGF-1 - which has been associated with aging and disease in mice and several diseases in older humans.
What's more, the mice on the protein-restricted diet also showed lower levels of the defective protein known to accumulate in the brains of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
The researchers say their future studies will look at whether low-protein diets have the same ability to slow dementia and improve cognitive function in humans.
In a press release, an author of the study and director of the Longevity Institute of the USC Davis School of Gerontology, Valter Longo said exploration of such dietary solutions have the ability to help patients more immediately than the development of new medications, which "can take 15 years to develop and cost a billion dollars."
The study was funded in part by a grant from the National Institutes of Heath.