Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of dementia
A new study led by Newcastle University has found that consuming a traditional Mediterranean-type diet – consisting of significant quantities of seafood, fruits, and nuts – could help reduce the risk of dementia by nearly a quarter. As previous studies have usually been limited to small sample sizes and low numbers of dementia cases, this research is one of the largest investigations of the relationship between Mediterranean diet and dementia.
The scientists analyzed data from 60,298 individuals from the UK Biobank who had completed a dietary assessment, and scored the participants based on how closely their diet matched key features of the Mediterranean one. Afterwards, the participants were followed for almost a decade – during which 882 of them developed dementia – while the researchers also assessed each of their genetic risk of dementia by estimating what is known as their “polygenic risk” (a measure of the variety of genes known to increase the risk of developing dementia). The results revealed that individuals who ate regularly a Mediterranean-like diet had up to 23 percent lower risk of dementia than the other participants.
“Dementia impacts the lives of millions of individuals throughout the world, and there are currently limited options for treating this condition,” said lead author Oliver Shannon, a lecturer in Human Nutrition and Aging at Newcastle.
“Finding ways to reduce our risk of developing dementia is, therefore, a major priority for researchers and clinicians. Our study suggests that eating a more Mediterranean-like diet could be one strategy to help individuals lower their risk of dementia.”
The experts also found that there was no significant interaction between the polygenic risk for dementia and the Mediterranean diet adherence, suggesting that even those with high genetic risk who follow a better diet could lower the likelihood of developing this debilitating condition.
Since the analysis was limited to individuals who self-reported their ethnic background as white, British, or Irish, further studies are needed to determine the potential benefits of such as diet in the case of other ethnicities.
“The findings from this large population-based study underscore the long-term brain health benefits of consuming a Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats,” said co-lead author Janice Ranson, a senior research fellow in Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Exeter.
“The protective effect of this diet against dementia was evident regardless of a person’s genetic risk, and so this is likely to be a beneficial lifestyle choice for people looking to make healthy dietary choices and reduce their risk of dementia. Future dementia prevention efforts could go beyond generic healthy diet advice and focus on supporting people to increase consumption of specific foods and nutrients that are essential for brain health.”
The study is published in the journal BMC Medicine.
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