Mediterranean Diet May Cut Alzheimer's
Combining Healthy Foods May Be the Key, Study Shows
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Looking at the Big Picture
Past studies have focused on isolated nutrients, Scarmeas notes.
"The novel approach of this study is that we looked at the combination
of foods into a food pattern… because people do not consume dietary elements in
isolation, but only as part of their overall diet," he says.
Possibly, it's the combination of nutrients, not single nutrients, "that
would be carrying beneficial results," Scarmeas says.
"When we looked at individual elements of this diet in isolation, we
could not detect much beneficial effect, while when we looked at all of them
together, the effect was there and it was quite prominent," Scarmeas
"This underlines again the importance of looking at combinations of
foods and nutrients when we look at the diet, rather than individual
The Mediterranean diet isn't a diet in the sense of a temporary dietary
change. It's about eating healthfully in the long run, not following
flash-in-the-pan food fads.
"We looked into our data, and adherence to these dietary habits seems to
be a longstanding pattern," Scarmeas says. "It seems that people do not
change their diet preferences and this is what they have been following for
"In particular for Alzheimer's disease, we do not know exactly when
the disease starts," Scarmeas says. "There are data that show that
small changes in the brain may occur decades before the clinical onset of the
symptoms. So it seems that it's important that whatever dietary elements are
beneficial that they are taken as early as possible and for a long
Observational studies like this one don't prove that participants' eating
habits solely prevented Alzheimer's. Even after adjusting for other factors,
it's possible that people favoring Mediterranean diets had other traits working
in their favor.
"Since it's the first study relating this diet to Alzheimer's disease,
it's a little bit premature to make recommendations to people," Scarmeas
says. "It has to be replicated and shown that it is beneficial by other
investigators and in other studies. That will increase our confidence that this
is a true finding."