`A 'Model Diet' for Prevention of Alzheimer's - Olive Oil Times

A 'Model Diet' for Prevention of Alzheimer's

May. 1, 2014
Sukhsatej Batra

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In a recent nar­ra­tive review arti­cle, Italian researchers from the University of Bari Aldo Moro, Bari, sug­gest that the Mediterranean diet may be the model diet to fol­low to slow the devel­op­ment of Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

Risk of Alzheimer’s dis­ease increases with age, and clearly there is a need to slow onset of Alzheimer’s dis­ease as life expectancy con­tin­ues to rise. In 2013, in the United States, 5 mil­lion of the total 5.2 mil­lion Americans with Alzheimer’s dis­ease were over the age of 65. These num­bers are esti­mated to rise to 13.8 mil­lion by 2050, accord­ing to the Alzheimer’s Association.

In the absence of treat­ment for Alzheimer’s dis­ease, mak­ing dietary and lifestyle changes may be an effec­tive approach to delay its onset. However, these changes need to be made at an early age given that the asymp­to­matic phase of Alzheimer’s dis­ease may be present for more than twenty years before symp­toms of this debil­i­tat­ing dis­ease appear.

To enable early diag­no­sis of Alzheimer’s dis­ease, in 2011 the National Institute of Aging and Alzheimer’s Association revised diag­no­sis cri­te­ria used since 1984. Although not stan­dard­ized for clin­i­cal diag­no­sis, the pro­posed three stages include: pre­clin­i­cal Alzheimer’s dis­ease; mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment due to Alzheimer’s dis­ease; and demen­tia due to Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

Although indi­vid­ual nutri­ents and foods that makeup the Mediterranean diet are known to pro­tect against cog­ni­tive decline, higher adher­ence to the Mediterranean diet as a whole appears to slow cog­ni­tive decline that ulti­mately leads to Alzheimer’s dis­ease. Published in the April 2014 issue of Current Nutrition Reports, the review arti­cle reports that higher adher­ence to the Mediterranean diet may also lower risk of frailty, a phys­i­cal con­di­tion asso­ci­ated with age and increased risk of cog­ni­tive decline.

Furthermore, the arti­cle found that adher­ence to the Mediterranean diet may be ben­e­fi­cial at all stages of Alzheimer’s dis­ease because it slows cog­ni­tive decline; delays pro­gres­sion from mild cog­ni­tive impair­ment to demen­tia due to Alzheimer’s dis­ease; and also reduces risk of death from Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

Of the two ran­dom­ized clin­i­cal tri­als con­ducted on Mediterranean diet, the 6.5‑year fol­low-up PREDIMED-NAVARRA study reported that sup­ple­ment­ing the Mediterranean diet with extra-vir­gin olive oil or mixed nuts enhanced cog­ni­tion, while the shorter, ten-day fol­low-up study reported incon­sis­tent results. Another ben­e­fit of fol­low­ing the Mediterranean diet, accord­ing to some stud­ies, is a reduc­tion in frailty and an increase in phys­i­cal activ­ity in older adults

Among other diets, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet or the DASH diet rec­om­mended for Americans who have hyper­ten­sion, has also been found to be effec­tive in slow­ing pro­gres­sion of Alzheimer’s dis­ease. Like the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet rec­om­mends higher con­sump­tion of veg­eta­bles, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts, fish, and poul­try while lim­it­ing intake of red meat, salt and sweet foods and bev­er­ages. A num­ber of pop­u­la­tion-based stud­ies have also found that con­sump­tion of healthy diets based on dietary pat­terns sim­i­lar to the Mediterranean and DASH diets, improved cog­ni­tive func­tions and low­ered risk of Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

Although more research in the form of ran­dom­ized clin­i­cal tri­als is needed, most stud­ies reviewed in this arti­cle sug­gest that adop­tion of the Mediterranean diet as a model diet in early to mid-life may be ben­e­fi­cial for delay­ing onset of Alzheimer’s dis­ease.


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