The last decade has seen more and more evidence that what you eat could protect you from Alzheimer’s disease –or make you more prone to it. Higher caloric intake, excessive alcohol consumption, and increased consumption of saturated fatty acids increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. On the other hand, increasing the intake of antioxidants, vitamins, proteins, and fish could protect individuals from Alzheimer’s. Based on this, the “Mediterranean diet” is an excellent idea.
In the 1950s-60s, the Mediterranean diet was first investigated among those whose life expectancy was among the longest in the world. This is because cancer, heart disease, and chronic disease were at very low rates.More recently, the Mediterranean diet is linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s, including the condition that often precedes it, known as mild cognitive impairment.
The Mediterranean diet is as follows:
— Meats and sweets: Eat less often
— Poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt: Moderate portions
— Fish, seafood: At least twice a week
– Fruit, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs and spices: Base every meal on these
It is believed that the Mediterranean diet lowers cardiovascular risks, such as hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol, thus protecting against vascular dementia.It also is flush with antioxidants (e.g. vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids) that protect brain cells from oxidative damages. It also contains many anti-inflammatory chemicals.
Researchers at ColumbiaUniversityfirst found a beneficial impact of the Mediterranean diet on the incidence of Alzheimer’s. A total of 2,258 healthy individuals (average age of 77) were followed for four years. The result showed that those who adhered to the Mediterranean diet closely had a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. The researchers concluded: “The lower risk for AD may be mediated by the composite effect of some of its beneficial components, such as higher intake of fish, fruits, and vegetables rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and flavonoids, and higher intake of unsaturated fatty acids.” This same group also showed that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, and the risk of the latter to progress into Alzheimer’s disease.
In recent years, the emphasis has been on isolating certain nutrients in the diet (from fish, olive oil, dairy products, alcohol, and fruits and vegetables) and seeing how they influence mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s. The rest of my series will address these key ingredients. Most, if not all, of these studies are large-population studies in which subjects were followed from four to 21 years using standard dietary questionnaires. Cognitive outcomes in these studies use the well-accepted criteria for Alzheimer’s and standard tests like the Mini Mental Status Exam, Memory Impairment Screen, and neuropsychological batteries are used to uncover Alzheimer’s disease.
Read my previous article in this series: