Brits looking to Haryana for key to tackling Alzheimer’s

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS,

London : The small town of Ballabgarh in Haryana has become the focus of a major international medical probe after figures this week showed more Britons than ever before are afflicted by the debilitating Alzheimer’s disease.

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Ballabgarh is thought to have the lowest levels of Alzheimer’s disease in the world – standing out in sharp contrast to the more than 820,000 reported this week to be living with dementia in Britain.

According to figures out this week, the British number is expected to double by 2051 for a condition that already costs the British government 23 billion pounds per year in healthcare expenses.

The silver lining came from researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, US, who spent several years studying 5,000 people over the age of 55 in Ballabgarh before reporting an unusually low incidence of Alzheimer’s.

Although life expectancy is lower in Ballabgarh than in developed parts of the world, the scientists found that the rate of Alzheimer’s disease was significantly below those in Britain, and less than a third of those in parts of the US.

This is in spite of the fact that the proportion of people in Ballabgarh and Pennsylvania carrying the APO4E gene, which predisposes people to Alzheimer’s disease, was almost exactly identical.

“We had a hunch that rates here would be lower,” Dr Vijay Chandra, one of the study authors, told the BBC.

In fact, the rates turned out to be among the lowest ever recorded by scientists.

“It all leads to a happy body, and a happy mind and hopefully a happy brain,” Chandra said.

“Cholesterol levels here are much lower. We believe that is what is protecting the community.”

British experts said additional protections against Alzheimer’s which may be at work in Ballabgarh include turmeric – the base ingredient of curry powder, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins D and B12, and polyphenol anti-oxidants found in fruits and vegetables.

The BBC said: “Life in Ballabgarh could not be more different from the complicated, stressful existence many of us lead in the rest of the world. But perhaps this community has something to teach us.”

“It is a farming community, so most of them are very physically active and most eat a low-fat, vegetarian diet. Obesity is virtually unheard of.”

Ballabgarh resident Parshadi Lal, 76, said: “I feel good, I feel healthy, I have a walk every morning, even though my knees do now give me a bit of trouble.”