Mediterranean Diet May Cut Alzheimer's
Combining Healthy Foods May Be the Key, Study Shows
WebMD News Archive
April 18, 2006 -- New research links a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits,
vegetables, fish, legumes, cereals, and olive oil to a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease.
The finding, published in the early online addition of Annals of
Neurology, comes from a study of 2,258 older adults in New York. At the
study's start, participants were in their 70s, on average, and none had dementia. Alzheimer's disease is the most common
form of dementia in seniors.
Participants took a 61-item survey about the foods they typically ate. They
also took a battery of tests every 1.5 years for four years to screen for
Alzheimer's. Those tests covered mental skills including memory, language, and
Participants weren't asked to change their eating habits. During the study,
the group had 262 cases of Alzheimer's, with fewer cases seen in participants
on Mediterranean-style diets.
Lower Rates of Alzheimer's Disease
"The main finding of the study is that higher adherence to a
Mediterranean diet type of food consumption is associated with decreased risk
for developing Alzheimer's disease," neurologist Nikoloas Scarmeas, MD,
Scarmeas, who worked on the study, is an assistant professor of neurology at
New York's Columbia University Medical Center.
Based on participants' food surveys, Scarmeas and colleagues gave each
participant a score for adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet. Scores ranged
from 0-9, with higher scores showing greater adherence to a Mediterranean
Compared with those with the lowest scores, those with middle scores were
15% less likely to have been found to have developed Alzheimer's disease, and
those with the highest scores were 40% less likely to have been found to have
Adjusting for age, ethnicity, education, genetic factors linked to
Alzheimer's disease, and caloric intake didn't change the results.
What Did They Eat?
The Mediterranean diet included high intake of certain foods:
- Fruits including apples, oranges, orange or grapefruit juice, peaches,
apricots, plums, and bananas
- Vegetables including tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels
sprouts, raw or cooked carrots, corn, yams, spinach, collard greens, and yellow
- Legumes including peas, lima beans, lentils, and beans
- Cereals including cold breakfast cereals, white or dark bread, rice, pasta,
and potatoes (baked, broiled, or mashed)
- Monounsaturated fatty acids, such as those found in olive oil
The Mediterranean diet also includes moderate amounts of fish of all types,
low intake of meat and poultry, low to moderate amounts of dairy products, and
a moderate amount of alcohol (usually wine served at meals).