Mediterranean Diet May Keep Alzheimer's at Bay

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Scientists have produced more evidence for the health benefits of eating a "Mediterranean diet": It apparently can help protect your brain.

The diet consists of lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, olive oil and fish, and small amounts of red meat and dairy products. Previous studies have found that such a diet appears to reduce the risk of a variety of diseases, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and raised the possibility that it might also reduce the odds of getting Alzheimer's disease.

In the new study, being published in the December issue of the Archives of Neurology, Nikolaos Scarmeas and colleagues at Columbia University Medical Center in New York studied 1,984 adults with an average age of 76, including 194 who had Alzheimer's disease.

When the researchers examined what the subjects ate in the previous year, they found that the closer their eating habits came to the Mediterranean diet, the lower their likelihood of having Alzheimer's.

After taking into account other factors that could affect the risk of developing the devastating brain disease, such as age and weight, the researchers found that those whose food choices were closest to a Mediterranean diet were 68 percent less likely to have Alzheimer's than those whose diets were least like it.

Researchers had thought that the protective benefits of the diet came primarily from protecting blood vessels. But the researchers said their study found evidence indicating that is not the case, suggesting that the diet may instead produce its benefits through other means, such as reducing inflammation and the amount of oxidation in the body.

-- Rob Stein

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