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Intermittent fasting and tackling high rates of dementia in rural areas share in $2.4 million research funding

Aerial view of river and rural area

Researchers will examine why people living in rural and regional areas are three to five times more likely to develop dementia than their city-dwelling counterparts and what can be done to reverse this trend —thanks to a grant from the Dementia Australia Research Foundation.

The Dementia Australia Research Foundation today announced funding for 18 projects in the 2022 Grants Program, worth $2.4 million in total.

Dr Ashleigh Smith from the University of South Australia (UniSA) said the Mid-Career Research Fellowship, worth $365,000, would enable her team to create dementia prevention strategies specifically tailored for rural and regional communities.

“We know there are 12 modifiable risk factors for dementia including smoking, diet, exercise and social isolation and we have collected good data on how these risk factors impact people living in Australian cities. This Fellowship will enable us to go to regional and rural areas to collect data around these risk factors” Dr Smith said.

Dr Smith said later parts of the project will utilise UniSA’s rural campuses to partner with the communities of Mt Gambier, Whyalla and Port Lincoln in South Australia to design targeted, culturally and geographically appropriate, and sustainable dementia prevention strategies and co-design a bespoke dementia prevention toolkit for use in rural communities.

“People living in rural and regional communities don’t want city-based solutions. By co-designing the toolkit with people living in rural and regional communities, we will ensure the toolkit is acceptable and aimed at extending healthy life and delaying dementia onset in Australians who live outside major cities.”

Dr Alby Elias from The University of Melbourne will lead a study examining whether intermittent fasting can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, thanks to a $75,000 Project Grant.

Intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating involves not eating any food for periods of between 12 and 24 hours between meals. It has been shown to have several health benefits, including improved blood vessel health and reduced inflammation.

“Intermittent fasting also has a range of benefits for several health conditions, including obesity, arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure. But so far no human studies have been conducted looking at fasting and Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr Elias said.

“Animal studies have demonstrated that intermittent fasting was associated with removal of the beta-amyloid protein from the brain, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Dr Elias said the first step was to work with clinicians and people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease to design a trial that was safe and achievable for participants.

The Chair of the Dementia Australia Research Foundation, Professor Graeme Samuel AC, congratulated all successful 2022 grant recipients.

“The diversity of projects selected shows we have a very exciting future for dementia research,” Professor Samuel said.

“With dementia affecting almost 50 million people worldwide, research into dementia is now more urgent than ever.”

The Dementia Australia Research Foundation acknowledges the generosity of donors who contribute each and every year to support dementia research and the grants program. Since the Dementia Grants Program started in 2000, almost $30 million in funding has supported more than 350 projects.

The full list of grant recipients is available here.

The Dementia Australia Research Foundation is the research arm of Dementia Australia, which provides funding to support new and emerging dementia researchers. In 2022, $2.4 million in funding was allocated to support Project Grants, Post-doctoral Fellowships and Mid-Career Research Fellowships.

For support, please contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. An interpreter service is available. The National Dementia Helpline is funded by the Australian Government. People looking for information can also visit

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