Eating A Mediterranean Diet May Lower Your Dementia Risk, Study Finds
When you come across a statistic stating that early-onset dementia diagnoses are up 200%, it's only normal to wonder what you can do to protect yourself.
We've long known that dementia is partially connected to lifestyle factors. In fact, Alzheimer's disease has been referred to as "Type 3 diabetes," and now a new study suggests that one diet may particularly help lower dementia risk.
Can the Mediterranean diet lower dementia risk?
To investigate, researchers at Newcastle University in England collected data from more than 60,000 participants for over 10 years. The participants were assessed for genetic risk factors for dementia, and they also completed a dietary assessment that allowed the researchers to score them based on how much their diet consisted of foods in the Mediterranean diet plan.
The results showed that after 10 years, 882 participants developed dementia. When the researchers looked to see whether the patients' diets were associated with a higher or lower risk of developing dementia, they found that those eating a Mediterranean diet (or the closest to it!) had a significantly lower risk.
But how much, exactly? The results showed that those on a Mediterranean-like diet had up to a 23% lower risk of developing dementia compared with those not on the diet.
Is a Mediterranean diet the best diet for dementia?
What's more, the Mediterranean diet affected participants who had genetic risk factors for dementia just as much as it affected those who didn't have those genetic risk factors, meaning nutrition is a powerful tool even if you're at a higher risk of the illness.
John Mathers, Ph.D., study author and professor of human nutrition at Newcastle, noted in a statement, "The good news from this study is that, even for those with higher genetic risk, having a better diet reduced the likelihood of developing dementia."
This study doesn't tell us that a Mediterranean diet can prevent dementia, nor does it tell us whether it's the best diet for reducing our risk. But it is a step in that direction, as it's the first large study showing a link between this eating pattern and a lower risk of dementia. Past studies have been too small to draw any firm conclusions. Mathers continued, "Although more research is needed in this area, this strengthens the public health message that we can all help to reduce our risk of dementia by eating a more Mediterranean-like diet."
How to lower your dementia risk today
We can't draw any hard-and-fast conclusions from this study, but it sure looks like a Mediterranean diet is a healthy brain diet. Not to mention its other benefits, like improved cardiovascular health, increased longevity, and weight loss. So, how can we make our diet more Mediterranean-like?
Eat more fish: Fish is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, which contains high levels of healthy anti-inflammatory fats. Reach for omega-3-rich options like salmon, herring, or sardines. Not that into fish? Try supplementing with an omega-3 supplement instead.
Eat a diverse range of fruits and vegetables: One of the major characteristics of the Mediterranean diet is a colorful plate of fruits and veggies. This helps provide your gut microbes with a diverse range of food and gives you a dose of antioxidants.
Avoid processed foods: A Mediterranean diet comprises whole foods. It doesn't involve many packaged or processed foods (think a long, lazy lunch versus a grab-and-go meal). Try to avoid highly processed foods, which often contain added sugars, refined grains, trans fats, and refined vegetable oils (soybean oil, corn oil, etc.)
A new study—the largest of its kind—shows that following a Mediterranean diet is correlated with a lower risk of developing dementia. The good news is that you can start adopting a more Mediterranean way of eating today!
Gretchen Lidicker is an mbg health contributor, content strategist, and the author of CBD Oil Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Hemp-Derived Health and Wellness and Magnesium Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Epsom Salts, Magnesium Oil, and Nature's Relaxation Mineral. She holds a B.S. in biology and earned her master’s degree in physiology with a concentration in complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown University.