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Mediterranean Diet Could Help Reduce The Risk Of Dementia

1 month, 2 weeks ago

2328  0
Posted on Jun 07, 2024, 11 a.m.

A growing body of evidence suggests that what we do and eat may help to reduce the risk of dementia. Recent research published in The Lancet identified 12 modifiable risk factors that are suggested to account for around 40% of worldwide dementia cases which consequently may have been prevented or delayed.

Over 55 million people around the World are living with dementia which places a huge and unsustainable burden on those affected by it, their families, caregivers, healthcare systems, and society at large. Although there are many promising studies emerging, there are very few options for treating dementia. Thus, most research is focused on finding ways to help people reduce their risks of developing these debilitating brain-wasting diseases. 

It is never too early or too late in the course of life for dementia prevention, intervention and care. Specific modifiable risk factors for dementia prevention, intervention, and care include: low education, hypertension, hearing impairment, obesity, smoking, depression, diabetes, physical inactivity, low social contact, traumatic brain injury, alcohol misuse, and air pollution. All of these factors can affect cognitive reserve and trigger neuropathological developments. Poverty, culture, and inequality are other key drivers, and those who are the most deprived need changes the most and will experience the highest benefits. 

While dietary factors and conditions linked with diet are identified as key dementia risk factors, most notably the consumption of an unhealthy diet as a whole was not on the list of modifiable risk factors. The absence of diet being listed as a modifiable risk factor for dementia is worth discussing in light of the mounting evidence indicating that what we put into our bodies can impact brain health throughout the course of life. 

That being said, there are a few reasons why diet may not have played a more important role in this study such as difficulties in defining what a healthy/unhealthy diet looks like, and that not all studies have shown convincing links between diet and brain health. Also, certain people benefit more or less from making changes to their diet. More research is required to help us understand whether diet can have a meaningful effect on dementia risk. 

Experts have been investigating the potential health benefits of a healthy diet for some time. The Mediterranean Diet has become of particular interest, and it always receives top rankings in studies comparing diets. For example, the PREDIMED Trial in Spain demonstrated that adhering to a Mediterranean-style diet helped to improve cognitive function in older adults. Other studies also suggest that eating a Mediterranean diet could help to reduce the risk of developing dementia. 

Despite the promising results, the links between eating a Mediterranean diet and reducing the risk of dementia are not conclusive. To add to this, most of the studies are fairly small and do not provide enough insight into whether certain people might respond differently to the consumption of this diet. 

To fill in the gap researchers at Newcastle University explored the associations between adherence to a Mediterranean diet and the risk of dementia in a study involving over 60,000 participants who were enrolled in the UK Biobank. 

Using participant dietary data, the researchers gave each person a score ranging from the low 0 to a high of 15 representing how closely their diet matched key features of a Mediterranean diet. Then while controlling for various potentially influencing factors, Cox proportional statistical techniques were used to explore the associations between the level of Mediterranean diet adherence and risks of developing dementia over a 9-year period.

According to the researchers, those with higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet had a 23% lower risk of developing dementia than those with lower scores. Additionally, there were similar associations between diet adherence and the risk of dementia in those with high and lower genetic risks for the condition. Suggesting that even for those with a higher genetic risk for dementia, close adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet could help to reduce the likelihood of developing dementia. 

Although this study has a number of strengths, it is not without limitations, most notably due to the nature of observational studies it is not able to infer cause and effect from the findings. Despite this, the findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that close adherence to a Mediterranean diet could be an effective way to promote brain health and reduce the risk of developing dementia. 

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. Additionally, it is not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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References/Sources/Materials provided by:

T.W. at WHN

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