Nutrition: Mediterranean Diet Looks Good for Alzheimer's
The Mediterranean diet, high in monounsaturated fat and low in meat and dairy products, appears to reduce the risk for Alzheimer's disease, according to a study of a New York City population, and the more strictly it is adhered to, the stronger its preventive effect.
The researchers studied 2,258 Medicare recipients in Manhattan who did not have dementia, recording their health status and their consumption of constituents of the Mediterranean diet: olive oil, fruits, vegetable, legumes, cereals, fish, a little alcohol and very little dairy or meat. The study appears in the Annals of Neurology in April.
Researchers classified the subjects by how strictly they followed the diet. Over the next four years, 262 participants developed Alzheimer's disease. The third who were most faithful to the diet were 40 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's than the third least faithful, and the third who were moderately compliant were 15 percent less likely to develop it.
The authors, led by Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas, an assistant professor of neurology at Columbia, acknowledged the study's weaknesses. Still, Dr. Scarmeas said, "The findings are very strong, and they make biological sense. This diet is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, lower oxidative stress and lower inflammation, which have in turn been associated with lower risk for Alzheimer's."
Should everyone go on the diet? Maybe not yet. "Ultimately," Dr. Scarmeas said, "recommendations have to come from similar findings in repeated observational studies like this one, and, if feasible, from clinical trials."