Diet May Sway Alzheimer's Death Rate
Alzheimer's Disease Patients May Live Longer on Traditional Mediterranean Diet
Sept. 11, 2007 -- Eating a traditional Mediterranean diet may help people
with Alzheimer's disease live longer, a new study shows.
Traditional Mediterranean diets feature vegetables, legumes, fruits, grains,
olive oil, fish, cheese, yogurt, wine with meals, and relatively little poultry
or meat, note the researchers, who included Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, of New
York's Columbia University Medical Center.
Scarmeas and colleagues previously reported that people may be
less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease if they follow a traditional
Today, the researchers report that the Mediterranean diet may also have
longevity benefits for Alzheimer's patients.
Data came from nearly 200 Alzheimer's patients in New York. The patients
completed surveys about their dietary habits during the past year. They weren't
asked to change their eating habits.
The patients were interviewed every 18 months. Those who most closely
followed a Mediterranean diet lived the longest.
"Alzheimer's patients who adhered to the diet to a moderate degree lived
an average 1.3 years longer than those people who least adhered to the diet.
And those Alzheimer's patients who followed the diet very religiously lived an
average of four years longer," says Scarmeas in a news release.
Alzheimer's disease affects memory. So the researchers tested the dietary
survey on another group of people who didn't have dementia but later developed
Alzheimer's disease. The link between the Mediterranean diet and lower death
The findings also held when Scarmeas and colleagues considered other
factors, including age, ethnicity, level of education, BMI (body mass index),
diabetes, heart disease, and genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease.
However, the researchers can't rule out other influences, so they call for
other studies on the topic.
An editorial accompanies the study in today's edition of the journal
Editorialist James Galvin, MD, MPH, of Washington University's medical
school in St. Louis observes that physical exercise and mental stimulation may
also benefit Alzheimer's patients -- and everyone else, too.
"It is interesting that considering all the medical and pharmaceutical
advances made in the last century, perhaps the most important things we can
still tell our patients, regardless of why they come to the office, is to stay
mentally active and physically fit and to eat a healthy and balanced diet,"