Four Studies Support Diet's Role in Dementia

Four groups of researchers attending a recent Alzheimer's Association International conference presented findings that add to a growing body of research on the positive impact that Mediterranean diets have on brain health.

Jul. 27, 2017
By Mary Hernandez

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Recent research pre­sented by four sep­a­rate American and Swedish researchers at July’s Alzheimer’s Association International con­fer­ence in London have all come out in favor of a Mediterranean (or sim­i­lar) diet in pre­vent­ing the devel­op­ment of demen­tia and other cog­ni­tive impair­ing conditions. 

The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference is an annual gath­er­ing of world’s largest forum of demen­tia researchers and is con­sid­ered to be the lead­ing plat­form for research into the treat­ment and pre­ven­tion of Alzheimer’s dis­ease and other dementias.
See Also: Olive Oil Health Benefits
The largest study pre­sented at the con­fer­ence in favor of the Mediterranean diet was based on pop­u­la­tion-based cross-sec­tional research under­taken by University of California researchers that involved close to 6,000 individuals. 

The find­ings, titled Neuroprotective Diets Are Associated with Better Cognitive Function: The Health and Retirement Study,” exam­ined the asso­ci­a­tions between older Americans who fol­lowed a Mediterranean or Mediterranean-DASH diet Intervention for Neurodegeneration Delay (MIND) diet and improved cog­ni­tive func­tion. It found that those fol­low­ing the diets were 30 to 35 per­cent less likely to demon­strate poor cog­ni­tive per­for­mance and expe­ri­enced less cog­ni­tive impair­ment, con­clud­ing with a rec­om­men­da­tion that fur­ther stud­ies be made of the role that dietary pat­tern impact on cog­ni­tive aging. 

A sec­ond study pre­sented at the con­fer­ence by researchers from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute rein­forced the value of diet in cog­ni­tive per­for­mance. The study stud­ied which dietary index could best pre­dict pre­served cog­ni­tive func­tion in Nordic older adults and fol­lowed a group of 2,200 Swedish adults over a six-year period. The study found that those who fol­lowed the so called Nordic Prudent Dietary Pattern (NPDP) diet (which like the Mediterranean diet empha­sizes whole grains and fresh pro­duce over processed junk food) expe­ri­enced bet­ter cog­ni­tive func­tion at the end of the trial period. 

A third study under­taken by researchers at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina sought to build on pre­vi­ous research into the role that diet plays in reduc­ing the occur­rence of Alzheimer’s dis­ease. Researchers used data from a recent Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study to sort par­tic­i­pants accord­ing to their adher­ence to a MIND diet and found that even those who only mod­er­ately adhered to the diet expe­ri­enced a sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tion in risk. 

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The final cor­rob­o­rat­ing study was pre­sented by Columbia University researchers and exam­ined the role that inflam­ma­tory nutri­ent pat­tern played in influ­enc­ing the struc­tural and cog­ni­tive mea­sures of brain aging in the elderly. It found that indi­vid­u­als who con­sumed a diet high in beta-carotene, cho­les­terol, and lutein and low in omega‑3 polyun­sat­u­rated fatty acids, cal­cium, folate, and vit­a­mins were asso­ci­ated with poorer exec­u­tive func­tion and higher lev­els of inflam­ma­tory mark­ers, indi­cat­ing that diet can alter brain func­tion and struc­ture for the bet­ter — or worse. 

It is cur­rently esti­mated that by 2030 over 75 mil­lion peo­ple will have demen­tia. With the cur­rent global cost pre­dicted to exceed $1 tril­lion in 2018, there is a need for afford­able pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures to be developed. 

The lat­est find­ings pre­sented at this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference join a grow­ing body of research that indi­cates that a Mediterranean style or sim­i­lar diet could be a tool to reduce the spread of demen­tia on an inter­na­tional scale.



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