Protect Your Brain With the Mediterranean Diet

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Eating a Mediterranean diet appears to be associated with a lower risk of mild cognitive impairment—a stage between normal aging and dementia, or of transitioning from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease, according to a report in the February issue of Archives of Neurology.


“Among behavioral traits, diet may play an important role in the cause and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease,” the authors write, citing previous studies that show a lower risk for those who follow the diet, which is characterized by high intakes of fish, vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals and unsaturated fatty acids; low intakes of dairy products, meat and saturated fats; and moderate alcohol consumption.

Neurologist Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, and his colleagues at Columbia University Medical Center in New York found that study subjects who had the highest scores for adherence to a Mediterranean diet had a 28% lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.

The Mediterranean diet may improve cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and blood vessel health overall, or reduce inflammation—all of which have been associated with mild cognitive impairment. The diet’s individual food components may also have an influence on cognitive risk.

“For example, potentially beneficial effects for mild cognitive impairment or mild cognitive impairment conversion to Alzheimer’s disease have been reported for alcohol, fish, polyunsaturated fatty acids (also for age-related cognitive decline) and lower levels of saturated fatty acids,” they write.

Additional studies are needed to confirm the role of this or other dietary factors in the development of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, they conclude.

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