There is no cure for dementia, but this diet may help reduce your risk.

There is no proven cure or way to prevent dementia, which affects 55 million people worldwide, but several studies claim that following a Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of developing the disease.

People who followed a strict Mediterranean diet – rich in fish and plant-based foods – had up to a 23% lower risk of dementia, according to the most recent study, published by an international team of researchers in the journal BMC Medicine. In absolute terms, adopting a Mediterranean diet was found to be equivalent to a 0.55% reduction in the risk of developing dementia.

The most recent investigation involved 60,298 people who took part in the UK Biobank study and were followed over a period of just over nine years. During the study, 882 cases of dementia emerged among the group. Subjects were between 40 and 69 years old, and were British or Caucasian Irish. The extent to which they adhered to the Mediterranean diet was assessed using two different questionnaires, widely used in previous diet studies, the researchers noted.

“There is a lot of evidence that a healthy, balanced diet can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. But the evidence for specific diets is much less clear,” Susan Mitchell, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said in a statement. She was not involved in the research.

“This extensive new study adds to this overall picture, but was based only on data from people of Caucasian, British or Irish ancestry,” he said. “More research is needed to take advantage of their intriguing results and find out whether the reported benefits also apply in minority communities, where historically dementia has often been misunderstood and highly stigmatized, and where awareness of how people can reducing your risk is low.”

There is no silver bullet to end dementia, but eating lots of vegetables and fruits, getting regular physical activity and not smoking are behaviors that contribute to heart health, which helps protect the brain from diseases associated with dementia, he added.

What foods are included in the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet has an impressive list of science behind it. This way of eating can prevent cognitive decline, but also protect the heart, reduce diabetes, prevent bone loss, encourage weight loss and much more, according to studies.

A study published on March 8 found that people who ate foods from the Mediterranean and MIND diets, which promote brain health, had fewer hallmark signs of Alzheimer’s disease – beta-amyloid protein plaques and tau protein in the brain – when autopsied. . Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia. MIND is an abbreviation for Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.

The Mediterranean diet focuses on a plant-based diet. Most meals include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and seeds, along with some nuts. Extra virgin olive oil is an essential ingredient. Butter and other fats are rarely consumed. Sweets and products made from refined sugar or white flour are rare.

Meat may appear from time to time, but usually only to add flavor to a dish. Alternatively, meals can include eggs, dairy and poultry, but in much smaller portions than in the traditional Western diet. However, fish, rich in omega-3, a brain stimulant, is a staple food.

Study participants who adhered to the diet more strictly were more likely to be female, with a BMI in the healthy range, higher education level, and more physically active than those who adhered less to the diet.

David Curtis, honorary professor at the UCL Genetics Institute in London, who was not involved in the research, pointed out that the latest study was observational and did not find cause and effect. The finding may reflect a generally healthier lifestyle, he considered.

“It is not clear that this diet itself reduces the risk of dementia, although it is plausible that it could. It is important to note that the study concerns all forms of dementia, not Alzheimer’s disease specifically. In my opinion, if If there is any effect of diet, it is more likely to be on cardiovascular health in general and therefore has more of an impact on dementia due to vascular disease than it does on Alzheimer’s disease.”

The social component of the Mediterranean diet

Duane Mellor, nutritionist and professor at Aston University in Birmingham, UK, noted that the benefits of a Mediterranean diet are not limited to the nutrients provided by food.

“The Mediterranean way of eating is not just about what’s on the plate, it’s also about the social interactions linked to food, and people who socialize the most have a lower risk of dementia and other conditions,” said Mellor, who was not involved in the research.

“We need to consider how a Mediterranean diet could be adapted to the foods available and consumed in the UK, so that inclusive messages about healthy eating can be developed, which include the importance of the social aspects of sharing and eating food with others. people.”

The study suggested that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower risk of dementia, even when there was a higher genetic risk of getting the disease.

*Sandee La Motte contributed to this article

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