Mediterranean Diet Protects Against Cognitive Impairment

Jul 13th, 2010 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

It’s time to talk about the Mediterranean Diet again.  SCJ first wrote about the Diet in June, 2009.  Some recent research suggests a review by senior citizens is in order.

Changes in your diet can help prevent the onset or slow the rate of cognitive decline… this was the finding in a study recently published in the Annals of Neurology, a juried journal published by the American Neurological Association.  The study included 2258 people followed in New York every year and a half; higher adherence to the Mediterranean Diet was associated with lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Mediterranean Diet is comprised of

  • smaller portion sizes than a Western diet
  • a focus on fresh rather than processed foods
  • a high intake of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains
  • moderate amounts of nuts, olive oil, and fish, which are high in healthy monounsaturated and omega-3 fats
  • moderate consumption of wine, typically with meals
  • regular consumption of skinless poultry and low-fat dairy in smaller portions
  • infrequent consumption of meat, which is high in saturated fats, and sweets

 This should get your attention:  the incidence of developing Alzheimer’s was 40% lower in those people who adhered to the Med Diet.  That’s FORTY PER CENT.  

In addition, another study revealed the Med Diet may keep those who have mild cognitive impairment from getting worse and developing Alzheimer’s.  That study included 1393 people also in New York, and found that among those with moderate cognitive impairment, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s over a four year period was 48% lower for those who followed a Med Diet.  And those who followed it, albeit not as strictly, had a 45% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s.  

In a third study of 192 people with Alzheimer’s already diagnosed, those who were pretty strict about following the Med Diet lived four years longer on average than those who followed the diet the least.  

The average American diet is too much fat, too much cholesterol, too much red meat and too little fresh fruits and veggies.   The Med Diet is characterized by fresh fruits and veggies, olive oil and fish.  And wine.

Take a look at this folks:  Fruits and veggies are free-radical-fighting antioxidants heavy with Vitamins A, C and E; that stuff prevents oxidative damage in your brain.  Olive oil and fish are full of mono-unsaturated fat and omega-3 (ESA–esssential fatty acid) which fights inflammation in the brain.  We should all know by now that research suggests inflammation and oxidative brain damage from free radicals plays a role in how the brain changes with Alzheimer’s.

If it’s good for the body, it’s good for the brain.  Heart-healthy food contributes to healthy blood vessels, improved blood flow to the brain, and better cognitive functioning.  The converse is also true:  clogged arteries caused by high cholesterol and atherosclerotic plaque reduce the blood flow to the brain, that impair memory and other brain functioning.

This isn’t rocket science. It’s just plain common sense.  We need to change our diets… and sooner rather than later.



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