A new study suggests that a diet rich in seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts and olive oil may reduce the risk of dementia.
According to the report published Monday in Medical, an analysis of data from more than 60,000 seniors found that following a Mediterranean diet cut a person’s chances of developing dementia by nearly a quarter, even That also in those genes that put it at higher risk. Journal BMC Medicine.
“The main message from this study is that, even for individuals at high genetic risk, consuming a more Mediterranean diet may reduce the likelihood of developing dementia,” said Oliver Shannon, lead author of the study. Nutrition and Aging at Newcastle University.
Among people whose food choices were at least as similar to the Mediterranean diet, “about 17 out of every 1,000 individuals developed dementia” during the nearly nine-year study follow-up period, Shannon said in an email.
In contrast, among people whose food choices most closely resembled the Mediterranean diet, “only 12 out of every 1,000 individuals developed dementia,” he said.
What is a Mediterranean Diet?
The Mediterranean diet is full of healthy plant-based foods such as vegetables, nuts and legumes. It is rich in whole grains, fruits and olive oil and fish.
Shannon said the people in the study were generally eating less red or processed meat, sweets and pastries, and drinking fewer sugary beverages.
Earlier studies have been mixed on whether the Mediterranean diet can help ward off dementia. In fact, a study published in October 2022 that looked at the medical records of 28,025 Swedes found that diet did not protect against dementia. In contrast, another study published in May of the same year, which included nearly 2,000 older adults, found that diets high in foods associated with inflammation — in contrast to the Mediterranean diet, which appears to be anti-inflammatory — were associated with sharper brain MRIs. An increased age on the scan and an increased risk for developing dementia.
To take a closer look at the effect of the Mediterranean diet on dementia risk, Shannon and colleagues turned to the UK Biobank, which collected data from men and women aged 4 to 69 from across England, Scotland and Wales from 2006 to 2010. Recruited. The prospective study currently has more than half a million participants.
Recruits filled out a touch-screen questionnaire, participated in an oral interview, and provided biological samples and measures of physical function. Afterward, the recruits received scans, were assessed for several health outcomes and provided information about their diet at various times during the study. The biobank was able to track participants’ health through linked electronic medical records.
An additional dimension in the new study was the inclusion of genetic information in the form of an Alzheimer’s risk score that was modeled in earlier research.
“The risk score was constructed using approximately 250,000 individual genetic variants that have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia,” explained Shannon.
For the new study, the researchers focused on 60,298 participants who were in their 60s at the time of recruitment. During an average follow-up of nine years, 882 individuals developed dementia.
When the researchers crunched their data, they found that individuals whose food consumption most closely mirrored the Mediterranean diet were 23% less likely to develop dementia during the years covered by the study.
Dr. Thomas Wisniewski, professor of neurology, pathology and psychiatry and director of Alzheimer’s Disease, said the new research adds to growing evidence that diet can affect dementia risk even in people who are at higher risk because of their genes. are in Research Center and Cognitive Neurology Center at NYU Langone.
“This study with really good numbers and a fairly significant effect size is showing that indeed, it is brain protective to follow a Mediterranean diet,” Wisniewski said. “It is positive news and certainly something that everyone can do relatively easily. So it is good news.
reducing the risk of dementia
Diet is “one of the lifestyle things that I discuss with all of my patients,” Wisniewski said. “The other thing we usually discuss with patients is the importance of staying physically and mentally active.”
Other important ways to reduce the risk of dementia include:
Those are all interventions that everyone can do to keep their brain healthy and reduce their risk of developing dementia,” Shannon said.
The new study found a nearly one-quarter reduction in the risk of dementia, Wisniewski said. “To do something that isn’t challenging, it’s a huge risk reduction,” he said.
While it is not known exactly how the Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of dementia, it may have several effects, ranging from reducing antioxidants, to helping reduce inflammation, and improving microbiome status, Wisniewski says. he said.
With no good drugs to treat dementia, experts are focusing on lifestyle factors that may have some impact on the risk, says Dr. D., a cognitive neuroscientist and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Emily Rogalski said.
At this time, it is unclear whether there is a point when it is too late to protect against dementia.
“But giving up and saying it’s too late is probably not the right attitude to take,” she said.
“We used to think that we were born with all the brain cells we ever had and that the brain was not that plastic, or malleable, or flexible,” Rogalski said. “We’ve learned over the past few decades that there is room for adaptation and change.”