The results of a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggested that a healthy diet does not reduce dementia risk.
These findings contradict earlier studies which concluded that a healthy diet reduces the risk of mental decline and helps to prevent abnormalities that can precede dementia.
I would certainly not want anyone to come away from this thinking a healthy diet is futile. This study has to be viewed within the context of the larger scientific literature on diet and cognition.
In this first-ever study to evaluate the long-term effects of diet on the risk of developing dementia, participants’ eating habits were observed from middle-age with follow-ups continuing for 25 years. The research team monitored 8,200 middle-aged adults, of which 344 were eventually diagnosed with dementia.
There was no marked decrease in the onset of dementia between the 30 percent of participants who stuck to a healthy diet rich in; fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes and consumed unsaturated fats including olive oil and the 30 percent with a poor diet that who regularly consumed red meat and ate sugar-rich foods.
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The study was carried out by a team from the French National Research Institute (INSERM). Ironically, lead researcher Tasnime Akbaraly published a study in 2018 which concluded that a healthy diet could help prevent the onset of depressive orders as well as contributing to overall health and wellbeing.
The Alzheimer’s Association, who are themselves currently sponsoring a trial looking into the effects of dietary changes along with other preventative measures for older adults at risk of mental decline, have continued to advise that eating a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fats is beneficial to mental and physical health.
While they have stated on their website that further research is needed on the relationship between diet and cognitive function they have advised that the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and the Mediterranean diet are considered to be beneficial in reducing the risk of dementia.
“I would certainly not want anyone to come away from this thinking a healthy diet is futile,” Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association, told Health Day. “This study has to be viewed within the context of the larger scientific literature on diet and cognition, which does suggest there’s a benefit [from healthy eating].”
Fargo believes that clinical trials give more definitive answers.
“Studies like this one which examines lifestyle habits cannot answer the question, will changing my diet reduce my risk of dementia, because they do not prove cause and effect,” he said. “You can’t rely on observational studies like this to tell you what to do.”
Earlier this year, Olive Oil Times reported that key nutrients of the Mediterranean diet were associated with healthy brain aging.