As the sun breaks through the morning mist in Ballabgarh, the elders of the village make their way to their regular meeting spot to exchange stories and share a traditional hookah pipe.Apparently the villagers here, mostly farmers, were tested for the ApoE4 gene which has been indicated as a risk factor for Alzheimer's. ApoE4 frequency was the same as in a population of farmers in rural Pennsylvania. Unfortunately the explanations suggested (vegetarian diet, lack of obesity, low cholesterol levels, physically fit farmers) does not seem to be unique to this farming community.
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 here, Alzheimer's disease is rare. In fact, scientists believe recorded rates of the condition in this small community are lower than anywhere else in the world.
In contrast with lives in Pennsylvania and other parts of the world, the people of Ballabgarh are unusually healthy. 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.There must surely be other farming communities in India and other places whose residents have a "happy body and a happy brain". I need to look up the original reference.
Life in this fertile farming community is also low in stress, and family support is still strong, unlike in other, more urban parts of India.
"It all leads to a happy body, and a happy mind and hopefully a happy brain," says Dr Chandra. "Cholesterol levels here are much lower. We believe that is what is protecting the community."