“Mediterranean” diet linked to lower Alzheimer’s risk
and World Science staff
A “Mediterranean” diet is linked with a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease among Americans, a study has found. A Mediterranean diet is one with plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, some fish and alcohol, and little dairy and meat.
The findings appear in the April issue of the research journal Annals of Neurology.
Researchers led by Nikolaos Scarmeas of Columbia University Medical Center in New York City studied 2,258 New Yorkers over four years. During that time, 262 of them were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s—a devastating, progressive degeneration of the brain, estimated to affect 4 million Americans.
“Higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease,” the researchers reported. Alzheimer’s typically starts in the 40s or 50s with memory difficulties, followed by impaired thought and speech and finally total helplessness.
Researchers scored each participant on a scale from 0 to 9 based on how well they followed a Mediterranean Diet. Each one-point increase, indicating stricter adherence to the diet, was associated with a 9- to 10-percent lower Alzheimer’s risk, they reported.
The scientists said the link remained significant after accounting for age, gender, race, education, caloric intake, body fat, smoking and other illnesses.
A possible weakness of the study was inaccurate measurement of subjects’ diets, the researchers said. But they argued that they had used a previously tested assessment method and that errors may have actually led to underestimation of the link between the diet and disease. Another possible shortcoming of the study was misdiagnosis, they noted, but they added that experienced practitioners made the diagnoses.
The Mediterranean diet also has other health benefits, and these have been shown to apply to various populations, the researchers said.
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