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Alzheimer’s disease – Mediterranean Diet reduces risk of getting Alzheimer’s

April 18th, 2006

Alzheimer’s disease – Mediterranean Diet reduces risk of getting Alzheimer’s

Fruits and Vegetables

A study of Americans that ate a Mediterranean diet had a reduced risk for getting Alzheimer’s disease in their old age.  The report was first published in the April issue of the Annals of Neurology.

According to Oldway’s website they depict the Mediterranean diet along with other food pyramids based on cultures.  A Mediterranean diet includes lots of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, rice, pasta, beans, legumes and nuts are eaten on a daily basis.  Olive oil and other plant oils along with cheese and yogurt are all part of a daily eating plan.  Fish, poultry, eggs, and sweets are on a weekly basis, with red meat being eaten on a monthly basis.


Previous research has tested individual food choices to see if Alzheimer’s disease risk could be reduced.  The results on individual foods have had mixed results depending on the studies.  Nikolaos Scarmeas of Columbia University Medical Center along with his colleagues decided to study the Mediterranean diet and the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.  By studying a complete dietary approach they hoped to see if this would add consistency to lowering a person’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

The study was funded by the NIH/NIA and had 2,258 people participate that were not demented at the time the study began.  They were all in New York City.  The participants were assessed with a standardized physical and neurological exam to measure for any signs of dementia.  Every 18 months the participants would come back for a period of 4 years to be assessed for any changes in dementia.


They surveyed the participants using a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire.  Based on the survey they graded how closely each person was following a Mediterranean Diet and would assign a score of 0 – 9.  A person with a score of 0 was the farthest from following the Mediterranean diet while rating of 9 was the closest match.  During time of the study they diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease in 262 of the participants. 

The researchers found that the closer the participants followed a Mediterranean diet the lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  If they were rated at a 9 they were following the Mediterranean diet.  Each point of the scale rating the Alzheimer’s risk dropped by 9 – 10 percent when compared to the 0 rated group.  If the person was rated in the middle they had around a 15 – 21 percent reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease.  Those that were the closest at following the Mediterranean diet had a 39 – 40 percent reduced risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Even when the researchers factored in other factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, education, caloric intake, BMI, smoking and other health conditions, the reduced risk for developing Alzheimer’s by eating a Mediterranean diet was still seen.


The researchers do warn that since the subject’s diet was a survey, it may have had a variation of data.  They believe it could be an underestimation.  The diagnosis of dementia was a standardized tests and they feel that the diagnosis of the Alzheimer’s cases were acceptable.

The Mediterranean diet has also shown to be beneficial for the heart as well as the brain.  This research has shown how dietary approach can be used to treat disease by prevention.

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By Nicole Wilson
Best Syndication

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