Study: Protection from dementia may be found with Mediterranean diet

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Mediterranean Diet May Support 'Healthy Aging,' Says Study. This is according to an analysis found in the British Medical Journal, 'Gut.'. The Mediterranean Diet puts an emphasis on vegetables, olive oil, fish, fruits and nuts. As one of the world's healthiest diets, it calls for low intakes of saturated fats, red meat and dairy items. 612 subjects were used for the study, all ranging from 65 to 79 years old. The participants, who hailed from five different countries in Europe, were categorized based on their frailties. Those who stuck to the eating plan after a year showed an increase of "good bacteria" in their guts. and a jump in bacteria linked to better brain health. Subjects also reported faster walking speed and improved grip strength. Duke Diet and Fitness Center nutrition director Elisabetta Politi says this study shows how the diet achieves results within one's body. It's really fascinating to see that those who eat Mediterranean-like achieve these health benefits because they have a more diverse microbiota, Elisabetta Politi, via 'USA Today'

A recent study shows you may be able to eat your way to protection from dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that has gradually worsening symptoms over time, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Memory loss is mild in the early stages. In the late stages, however, people with Alzheimer’s are unable to hold a conversation and react to their surroundings.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth main cause of death in the U.S.

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Michael Wagner, Ph.D., head of a research group at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, or DZNE, and senior psychologist at the memory clinic of the University Hospital Bonn, led the new study. It was published Wednesday in the journal Neurology.

It found that regularly eating a Mediterranean-like dietary pattern may provide protection from protein deposits in the brain and shrinking the size of the brain, known as brain atrophy. These occurrences happen in people affected with Alzheimer’s disease. They lead to symptoms such as disorientation and memory loss.

Consuming a diet relatively high in fish, fruit, legumes, vegetables, cereals and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as olive oil, was found to help. The Mediterranean diet is also low in red meat, dairy and saturated fatty acids.

Researchers conducted a nutrition study involving 512 participants with an average age of about 70. Cognitively healthy individuals made up 169 patients. The rest — 343 participants — were identified as having a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

The study was conducted as part of a DZNE study that performs nationwide research on the early phase of Alzheimer’s disease. This is the time before noticeable symptoms arise.

“People in the second half of life have constant eating habits. We analyzed whether the study participants regularly eat a Mediterranean diet — and whether this might have an impact on brain health,” Wagner said in a statement.

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Initially, participants completed a questionnaire where they indicated the characteristics of 148 different foods they’d consumed over the past several months. High scores emerged from individuals who often ate healthy foods associated with the Mediterranean diet and infrequently consumed foods such as red meat.

Researchers evaluated brain atrophy using MRIs and neuropsychological tests. They also examined proteins by analyzing biomarker levels.

Individuals who ate unhealthy diets had more disordered biomarker levels than people who regularly ate the Mediterranean-like diet. Regular consumption of fruits and vegetables was also shown to lead to improved memory test performance compared to eating an unhealthy diet.

“There was also a significant positive correlation between a closer adherence to a Mediterranean-like diet and a higher volume of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is an area of the brain that is considered the control center of memory. It shrinks early and severely in Alzheimer’s disease,” said lead study author Tommaso Ballarini, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Wagner’s research group.

“It is possible that the Mediterranean diet protects the brain from protein deposits and brain atrophy that can cause memory loss and dementia. Our study hints at this,” Ballarini said. “But the biological mechanism underlying this will have to be clarified in future studies.”

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