Dementia deteriorates a person’s memory, thinking, behaviour and ability to perform everyday tasks. In 2018 the global societal cost of dementia was estimated to be $1 trillion US dollars and the number of people with dementia is expected to triple in the next few decades, placing a huge burden on health systems worldwide. Women have a higher risk of dementia than men.
There is currently no cure for dementia but a UK-Indonesia research collaboration has found that the consumption of tempe, a fermented soybean product, could reduce the risk of dementia and improve memory. In many East Asian countries people very frequently eat tofu, which has been shown to increase the risk of dementia in older East Asian people. Observational studies showed that a simple dietary change to tempe reduced that risk by 20 percent and improved memory.
Oestrogen deficiency in women can increase the risk of dementia. Tempe flour contains plant-based hormones which could provide a safe alternative to synthetic oestrogen treatment (linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and thrombosis) to prevent long term oestrogen deficiency in women – which could prove a major breakthrough in the oestrogenic treatment of early menopause. Studies of rodents showed that tempe was highly effective in promoting memory and reducing early hallmarks of dementia.
Strong links with local business and government have sped up the results of this research and increased awareness about dementia among policy makers and service providers, resulting in a new focus on promoting better care and more research into this area. The project has led to several spin off projects and collaborations beyond the partner countries.
"We have shown tempe flour has beneficial effects on memory in UK middle-aged women. If we can show benefit for earlyoestrogen deficient women it could be a major breakthrough."
Professor Eef Hogervorst, Loughborough University
Tempe to improve memory in elderly people with dementia (TIME)
Project leads: Professor Eef Hogervorst, Loughborough University, UK and Professor Tri Budi Rahardjo, URINDO and Universitas Indonesia
Delivery partners: British Council, UK and Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education of the Republic of Indonesia