This Rural Village In India Could Hold Key To Beating Dementia
This particular village in northern India has unusually low levels of Alzheimer's disease. More than 820,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with dementia, and this number is expected to double by 2051. Is there anything that can be learned to slow the trend?
As the sun sets into the far horizon in Ballabgarh, the elders of the village make their way to their regular meeting spot to exchange stories and share an occasional traditional hookah pipe.
These men are in their sixties and seventies, while their faces bear the evidence of years of hard work in the fields, their minds are still sharp.
In other parts of the world, people of their age would be at some risk of developing dementia. But Alzheimer's disease is rare here. In fact, scientists believe recorded rates of the condition in this small community are lower than anywhere else in the world.
76-year-old Parshadi Lal says: "I feel good, I feel healthy, I have a walk every morning, even though my knees do now give me a bit of trouble."
Record Low Rates Of Alzheimer's
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh spent several years studying over-55s in this area.
They tested more than 5,000 people for Alzheimer's disease, using screening processes suitable with local culture, and relateable for the illiterate.
They wanted to be sure they did not miss any hints of the condition being present.
It is an area where people tend not to live as long as they do in wealthier, more developed areas, so you would expect rates of Alzheimer's disease to be lower.
But even after they factored in the lower life expectancy of people in this area, the rate of Alzheimer's disease was still far below those in the UK - and less than a third of those in parts of the US.
"We had a hunch that rates here would be lower," says Dr Vijay Chandra, one of the authors of the study. In fact, they found what appeared to be among the lowest rates of the condition ever recorded by scientists.
So what is it that prevents these people from contracting a disease that affects millions of people around the world?
Is It In Their Genes?
Dr Chandra said they tested people to see whether fewer of them carried the APO4E gene, which is a precursor to Alzheimer's disease. They did not.
When compared to people living in a community in Pennsylvania, US, they found almost exactly the same proportion carried the gene.
But in contrast with people in Pennsylvania and other parts of the world, the people of Ballabgarh are still surprisingly healthy. It is a farming community, so most of them are physically active and most eat a low-fat, vegetarian diet filled with many spices.
Among the hundreds if not thousands of spices in their diet, there is one of which is commonly known as the golden spice of India. This miraculous spice has been proven to help prevent and treat not only Alzheimer's, but also depression, heart disease, type 2 Diabetes and even cancer!
In fact, the Indians are not the only ones who are familliar with this spice. Since 522 BC Native American healers have been using this miracle spice to aid with the healing of wounds and bruises.
And it has in recent years been rediscovered and brought back to America.