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Mediterranean Diet May Help Alzheimer's

March 2009 - Research from Columbia University Medical Center, New York published in Archives of Neurology has found that a Mediterranean diet appears to be associated with a lower risk of cognitive impairment for individuals at the stage between normal aging and dementia and between mild impairment and Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers explain that it is thought that diet may play a significant role is in the cause and prevention of Alzheimer's disease. Previous studies have shown a lower risk among those eating a Mediterranean diet "characterized by high intakes of fish, vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals and unsaturated fatty acids, low intakes of dairy products, meat and saturated fats and moderate alcohol consumption".

In the current study, researchers calculated a score for adherence to the Mediterranean diet for 1393 participants with no cognitive problems and 482 with mild impairment when recruited between 1992 and 1999.

Over an average of 4.5 years of follow-up, 275 of the 1393 without mild cognitive impairment subsequently developed the condition. Researchers found that a Mediterranean diet was associated with lower risk: the one-third of participants with highest adherence scores had a 28 per cent reduced risk and one-third with middle adherence scores had a 17 per cent reduced risk compared with the one-third with lowest adherence scores.

Over a slightly shorter average follow-up (4.3 years) 106 of the 482 participants with mild cognitive impairment went on to develop Alzheimer's disease. Again researchers found that a Mediterranean diet also was associated with lower risk for this transition: the one-third of participants with the highest adherence scores had a 48 per cent reduced risk and those in the middle one-third had 45 per cent less risk compared with the one-third with lowest adherence scores.

Researchers suggest that a Mediterranean diet may help to improve factors associated with development of mild cognitive impairment such as cholesterol and blood sugar levels and blood vessel condition. Individual dietary components also may have an influence.

Researchers explained:

"For example, potentially beneficial effects for mild cognitive impairment or mild cognitive impairment conversion to Alzheimer's disease have been reported for alcohol, fish, polyunsaturated fatty acids (also for age-related cognitive decline) and lower levels of saturated fatty acids."

Previous Article

September 2007 - Research led by Dr Nikos Scarmeas of Columbia University Medical Center published in Neurology has found that a Mediterranean diet may help people with Alzheimer's disease live longer than those relying on a more traditional Western diet.

The study followed 192 people with Alzheimer's disease in New York for an average of four and a half years during which 85 participants died. However, the study found that those most closely following a Mediterranean diet were 76 per cent less likely to die.

Researchers explain that a Mediterranean diet includes a high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals, fish, and monounsaturated fatty acids combined with a low intake of saturated fatty acids, dairy products, meat and poultry and a mild to moderate amount of alcohol.

Nikos Scarmeas commented:

"The more closely people followed the Mediterranean diet the more they reduced their mortality. For example, Alzheimer's patients who adhered to the diet to a moderate degree lived an average 1.3 years longer than those people who least adhered to the diet. And those Alzheimer's patients who followed the diet very religiously lived an average four years longer."

Previous research by this group demonstrated that healthy people eating a Mediterranean diet reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Studies have also shown that such individuals tend to live longer than those eating a Western diet.

Nikos Scarmeas added:

"New benefits of this diet keep coming out. We need to do more research to determine whether eating a Mediterranean diet also helps Alzheimer's patients have slower rates of cognitive decline, maintain their daily living skills, and have a better quality of life."

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