Although there is no current treatment proven to cure Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, scientific research shows a clear connection between diet and brain health. Several large scale studies of the Mediterranean Diet, as well as smaller studies on specific foods and spices, point to the important role played by diet in the cause, prevention and management of Alzheimer’s. A healthful diet is now widely acknowledged to boost overall brain health and cognitive function and even potentially delay the onset of dementia symptoms and Alzheimer’s.
Senior Living Residences is committed to advancing public knowledge about this research in an effort to control the advance of Alzheimer’s disease, rated as the second most feared illness after cancer.
Major Studies Prove Mediterranean Diet Boosts Brain Health
[ UPDATE: Oldways, a nutrition nonprofit focused on educating the public about healthful eating keeps up to date on all the current research relating to the Mediterranean Diet and brain health. See the Oldways’ list of Health Studies related to the Mediterranean Diet.]
2016 EPIC-NORFOLK STUDY
A 2016 study showed that when taken outside of the Mediterranean region, adherence to a Mediterranean Diet still had significant impact on cardiovascular health and can actually aide in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases including stroke, heart attacks and high blood pressure.
2014 AUSTRALIAN STUDY
An Australian study followed 527 healthy older adults in three different dietary pattern groups (Australian-style Mediterranean, Prudent/healthy, and Western) over a 3-year period. Researchers found that in participants with a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease, a high adherence to the Australian-style Mediterranean diet (high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and fish) was associated with better executive function (the set of mental processes used in planning, strategizing, remembering details, and managing time and space.)
2013 SPANISH STUDY
One of the largest human clinical diet trials to date, which followed 7,447 individuals for a median of 4.8 years, showed that following the Mediterranean Diet can dramatically reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke by 30%, even when you are at high risk for cardiovascular disease. This is a seminal study also for brain health since brain health is so closely linked to heart health.
The researchers in Spain also discovered that adding two healthy fats to the basic Mediterranean Diet each day had an even more beneficial impact on brain health. Those who consumed extra virgin olive oil and a handful of nuts daily were less likely to show the early signs of dementia than those who stuck to the basic Mediterranean diet. The nuts used in the study were walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts and the olive oil was specifically “extra virgin.”
“Our ﬁndings support increasing evidence on the protective effects of the Mediterranean Diet on cognitive function,” Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez of the University of Navarra in Spain and colleagues reported in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
2011 CHICAGO STUDY
The Chicago Health and Aging Project is a longitudinal study following over 3,500 adults. Based on data gathered over the last seven years, those who most adhered to Mediterranean diet recommendations had a slower rate of mental decline as compared with individuals not following the diet recommendations.
2009 NEW YORK STUDY
A comprehensive study published in 2009 by Nikolaos Scarmeas, M.D., and colleagues at Columbia University Medical Center, found that individuals who follow a Mediterranean-type diet had a 32-40% decreased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. This is due to the Mediterranean diet’s proven positive effects on improving cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and blood vessel health, as well as reducing inflammation. These factors have all been associated with Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. This study followed 1,875 individuals for 4.5 years.
- Article in Science Daily, February 9, 2009