Mediterranean Diet And Exercise Reduce Alzheimer's Risk
Results of a recent study indicate that elderly people who follow a Mediterranean diet plus engage in exercise have a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The study was the first to investigate the impact of both a Mediterranean and physical activity on Alzheimer’s risk.
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center in New York evaluated 1,880 elderly residents who did not have dementia at the start of the study. The participants underwent neurological and neuropsychological evaluation every 1.5 years from 1992 through 2006, and their adherence to a Mediterranean diet and level of exercise were assessed.
Overall, 282 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease over the course of the study. When comparing participants who had low exercise rates and low adherence to the Mediterranean diet, those who had high exercise rates and high adherence to the diet had a 35 to 44 percent reduced risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.
This is not the first study to link a healthy diet with a decline in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Back in 2006, an article in the Archives of Neurology reported that eating a Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease, even when researchers took into account whether patients had vascular diseases (e.g., stroke, heart disease, diabetes). The results of this earlier study suggested that the diet may be beneficial because it worked through different pathways than the vascular system to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
A Mediterranean diet also appears to be helpful once people get Alzheimer’s disease. A study published in 2007 in Neurology noted that people with the disease who follow this healthy diet live longer than patients who eat a more traditional Western, high-fat, low-fiber diet.
One study got very specific about which foods in the Mediterranean diet are more beneficial than others in promoting longevity. According to research published in the British Medical Journal in June 2009, the most helpful foods are vegetables, fruits, nuts, pulses, and olive oil, while also drinking moderate amounts of alcohol. Longevity was not associated with a diet high in fish, seafood, and cereals and low in dairy products.
In February 2009, an article in the Archives of Neurology reported that eating a Mediterranean diet appeared to be associated with a reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment, a condition that frequently leads to Alzheimer’s disease.
The current study as well as many others continue to support the health benefits of following a Mediterranean-type diet and including regular exercise as part of one’s lifestyle. Further research is planned to further verify the advantages of this lifestyle approach in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
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