The Mediterranean diet, low in red meat but rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oil and fish, could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. This type of diet has consistently been linked to a reduction in cardiovascular diseases and many types of cancer. The benefits that come with this diet seem to be more favourable to those who follow it to the letter.
The Mediterranean diet became popular when scientists observed an increase in longevity of the people residing in the regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea (Greece, Crete, Southern-Italy) compared to the average of Western populations. This population exhibited lower levels of cancer and cardiovascular disease. The increase in longevity would be the result of a lifestyle including regular physical exercise, lower levels of stress and more importantly, a diet based on the abundant use of olive oil. The Mediterranean diet differs from that of the North-American diet by its low consumption of saturated fats (predominantly originating from animal fat), and a greater presence of monounsaturated fats present in olive oil and fish.
The Mediterranean diet is predominantly based on vegetable sources such as bread, cereals, fruits and vegetables, grains and legumes (such as peanuts, lentils and chick peas). It is not a vegetarian diet per say, although red meat and animal fats are less likely to be part of the menu. Proteins mostly come from cheeses, eggs and fish, and are consumed in small quantities.
To assess the impact of this diet on Alzheimer’s, some researchers questioned close to 2,000 participants in order to evaluate their adherence to the Mediterranean diet (on a scale of 0 to 9). Researchers realized that for each additional unit corresponding to the Mediterranean diet, the risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s decreased by approximately 10%. Therefore, those who had a diet richer in fish, fruits, vegetables and olive oil presented close to 40% less risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s compared to the participants who followed a typical North-American diet.
On the other hand, Omega-3 fatty acids, largely present in fish, could also be a contributing factor in slowing down the cognitive decline of people suffering from a milder type of Alzheimer’s. However, they do not seem to have great effects on more advanced forms of the disorder.
Just a reminder, a varied diet comprised of the different food groups is greatly beneficial. Choose varied, unrefined and colourful foods to put on your dinner plate. It will always do the trick!