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Mediterranean Diet Slows Cognitive Decline Study Finds

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, February 10, 2009 9:43 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Diet, Living Well, Mediterranean Diet, Alzheimer's Disease, Cognitive Decline, Brain Health, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Aricept

Mediterranean diet once again found to have a protective effect against brain aging.



IMAGE SOURCE:  Wikipedia Commons/ olive tree, Lisboa, Portugal / author:  Wiked Kentaur


This study reinforces what health advocates have called for all along – that a national health improvement picture begins at home. 

Once again, a Mediterranean-style diet is the winner.  A new study suggests that a diet that emphasizes unprocessed foods, heavy with fish, olive oil, and vegetables, may help keep Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment or borderline dementia at bay.

This time researchers from the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University Medical Center examined and interviewed almost 1,900 people.  Among that group 1,393 had healthy brains.  482 were beginning to experience mild cognitive impairment.

Among the questions- what are your eating habits?

Four years passed and in the follow-up, those who ate a Mediterranean diet had a 28 percent lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment when compared to those least likely to eat a Mediterranean diet.

The middle group, when it came to adhering to a Mediterranean diet, had a 17 percent lower risk.

Mediterranean Diet

What foods would NOT be on a Mediterranean diet – French fries, soda, pastry, hamburger, milk shakes, cookies – basically what has become the staple of an American diet is decidedly NOT the Mediterranean diet.

What foods are?  Vegetables, legumes (lentils, beans), fish, olive oil, nuts, and fats that come from vegetables rather than meats (monosaturated), low consumption of meat and dairy and processed foods constitute the Mediterranean diet.

What happened to the group of 482 who entered the study with a mild cognitive impairment?  Four years later, 106 developed Alzheimer’s disease. The one-third who had the highest score for the Mediterranean diet had a 48 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s when compared to those at the other end of the scale.

These findings echo previous research.

Scott Turner, at Georgetown University’s Memory Disorders Program tells USA Today this is the first time a Mediterranean diet has been associated with a decrease in mild cognitive impairment.  Follow-up studies will randomly assign the diet to see if the protective effects against mental aging can be repeated.  

Alzheimer’s likely begins years before one can see the brain decline, so long-term adherence may be the key. 

The study is published in this month’s Archives of Neurology.  #

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