Weekly Healthy Advice
Mediterranean Diet Could Reduce Alzheimer's Risk
is the most common form of dementia and currently affects
over 13 million people worldwide. The direct and indirect
cost of Alzheimer care is over $100 billion in the US alone.
A recent US multi-ethnic study has suggested that a greater
adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet could cut the risk
of Alzheimer's disease by a whopping 68 percent.
The Mediterranean diet, rich in cereals, wine, fruits, nuts,
legumes and whole grains, fish and olive oil, has been linked
to longer life, less heart disease, and protection against
some cancers. The diet's main nutritional components include
beta-carotene, vitamin C, tocopherols, polyphenols, and essential
minerals. It is these antioxidants and polyphenols that appear
to offer protection, suggest the researchers from Columbia
So How Can The Mediterranean Diet Make A Difference?
Although the mechanism of Alzheimer's is not clear, more support
is gathering for the build-up of plaque from beta-amyloid
deposits. The deposits are associated with an increase in
brain cell damage and death from oxidative stress. It is against
the oxidative stress that the Mediterranean diet could offer
The findings of Nikolaos Scarmeas and his colleagues, published
in the Archives of Neurology are based on results from
a study of 194 Alzheimer disease (AD) cases (average age 82)
and 1790 non-demented controls (average age 76). The controls
had almost equal representation of White, Black and Hispanic
subjects, while 59 percent of the AD cases were Hispanic,
31 percent Black and 9 percent White.
After adjusting the results for possible confounding factors,
such as age, education, BMI, smoking status, and ethnicity,
the researchers reported that people with the highest adherence
to a model Mediterranean diet were associated with a 60 percent
lower risk of Alzheimer's disease, compared to people with
the lowest adherence to the diet.
When the researchers took into account a series of cardiovascular
variables, such as history of stroke, hypertension, heart
disease, diabetes, and plasma lipid levels, the associations
for the high adherence group grew stronger, with an associated
risk reduction of 68 percent.
The Mediterranean diet is a modern nutritional model inspired
by the traditional dietary patterns of some of the countries
of the Mediterranean basin, particularly Southern Italy, Greece,
Cyprus, Portugal, Turkey and Spain.
Common to the diets of these regions are a high consumption
of fruit and vegetables, bread and other cereals, olive oil
and fish; making them low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated
fat and dietary fiber. A main factor in the appeal of the
Mediterranean Diet is its rich, full flavored foods. Margarine
and other unhealthy hydrogenated oils are considered bland
and lacking the flavor olive oil can impart to foods. Red
wine is also consumed regularly but in moderate quantities.
Some questions have been raised as to if the diet provides
adequate amounts of all nutrients, particularly calcium and
iron. Nonetheless, green vegetables, a good source of calcium
and iron, is used in the Mediterranean diet as well as goat
cheese, a good source of calcium.