A COUNCIL which is projected to see a 42 per cent rise in its elderly population with dementia over the next decade will examine working with care homes to encourage the provision of meals that help reverse or slow the onset of the condition.

The pledge was made at a meeting of the leaders of North Yorkshire County Council, which also heard the authority was continuing to face spiralling bills from care homes and frustration that the Government was yet to introduce a sustainable system to fund social care. Last year alone the council put in £9m of its own resources to shore up its care services for vulnerable adults.

Councillor Paul Haslam, who represents Harrogate, where the cost of providing care in homes is the highest in the county, told the executive there was abundant evidence that dementia could be eradicated in 30 years’ time if people changed their diets.

Experts say the best way to reduce risk of dementia is to adapt aspects of lifestyle, including eating certain foods, taking regular exercise, not smoking, and maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

An Alzheimer’s Society spokesman said: “There is some evidence that eating a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce the risk of developing problems with memory and thinking, and getting some forms of dementia.”

Public Health England has estimated about a third of dementia cases might be in part caused by preventable factors such as diet.

Cllr Haslam told the meeting there was also a lot of evidence that if the diets of care home residents with dementia were changed they could have a better quality of life and that good nutrition helped people fight any viral infection.

He said: “Alzheimer’s is referred to in some parts of the United States as diabetes type three. That might give you a clue as to what the dietary cause of it is.”

He suggested a healthy meal should include three-quarters of vegetables and the rest of protein.

Richard Webb, the authority’s corporate director of health and adult services, told Cllr Haslam while the council’s priority at the moment was keeping people healthy during the pandemic, the crisis had revealed a number of potential changes to the county’s care homes.

He said where the authority was the in-house provider it looked at the rules and regulations on best practice on menu settings to get the balance right between healthy eating and people having an enjoyment of food and some treats. Mr Webb said: “I think that’s always a difficult balance. Likewise, I know many care providers do the same. We can’t actually instruct the hundreds of care providers across the county, but we can work with them on good practice and I will take on board the point you are making. I’m happy to look into that in a post-Covid world,”