Dementia is a growing concern among older adults, but there is some good news for those willing to change their diets. According to a new study, eating a Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of developing dementia by nearly one-quarter. This is even true for those who have genes that put them at higher risk.
The study, published in BMC Medicine, analyzed data from more than 60,000 seniors. Throughout the 9-year study, participants who adopted a Mediterranean diet were 23% less likely to get dementia. This was true even for individuals with a higher genetic risk for the disease.
What Is a Mediterranean Diet?
So what exactly is a Mediterranean diet? It’s a diet rich in seafood, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and olive oil. The people in the study also typically ate less red or processed meat, sweets, and pastries. They also drank fewer sugar-sweetened beverages.
Researchers also came up with a Mediterranean diet score. They say get a “perfect” score, your weekly diet should include the following:
- Olive oil as the primary cooking fat.
- 2 or more servings of vegetables per day.
- 3 or more servings of fruit per day.
- Less than 1 serving of red/processed meat per day.
- Less than 1 serving of butter, margarine, or cream per day.
- Less than 1 sugar-sweetened drink per day.
- 3 or more servings of legumes, such as beans, lentils, or peanuts, per week.
- 3 or more servings of fish per week.
- Less than 2 servings of sweets or pastries per week.
- 3 or more servings of nuts per week.
- More white meat than red meat in the diet.
- 2 or more servings of a tomato-based sauce per week.
This diet contains healthy plant-based foods such as vegetables, nuts, and legumes. It’s also rich in whole grains, fruits, olive oil, and fish. Choosing to follow this diet can have a significant impact on reducing the risk of developing dementia.
Building on Previous Dementia Research
Previous research has been mixed on whether a Mediterranean diet may help prevent dementia. But this new study adds to the growing body of data showing how diet food can influence dementia risk. This is even true for those at a higher risk because of their genes.
Dr. Thomas Wisniewski, a professor of neurology, pathology, and psychiatry and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Center for Cognitive Neurology at NYU Langone, believes this study is “really good news.”
“This study with really good numbers and a fairly substantial effect size is showing that, indeed, it is brain protective to follow a Mediterranean diet. It’s positive news and certainly something that everyone can do relatively easily. So it’s good news.”
Tips for Eating a More Mediterranean-style Diet
So, what can you do to incorporate more Mediterranean-style foods into your diet? Here are some ideas:
- Swap out your cooking oil for olive oil.
- Incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your meals.
- Choose fish over red or processed meat.
- Snack on nuts instead of sweets or pastries.
- Try making a tomato-based sauce for your pasta dishes.
- Replace sugary drinks with water or herbal tea.
In conclusion, it’s important to remember that small changes to your diet can significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia. So help protect your brain by adopting more Mediterranean-style foods into your meals. It will help you enjoy a healthier, more fulfilling life as you age.