Aging is one of the risk factors for developing some type of dementia and therefore it is essential to find ways to delay or prevent its onset. The regular practice of physical exercise and a good diet protect the health of the brain and can be very helpful, as shown by a new study that has found that following a Mediterranean diet can reduce up to 23% the risk of dementiacompared to people who do not follow this type of diet.
A team of researchers from the University of Newcastle have analyzed data recorded in the UK Biobank from 60,298 people who had completed a dietary assessment. They classified them taking into account the similarities of their diet with the most important characteristics of the Mediterranean diet – rich in foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish and nuts – and followed these people for almost 10 years. In this period of time, 882 cases of dementia were diagnosed.
The researchers say their results show that a Mediterranean diet that includes a high intake of healthy plant-based foods may be a key intervention that should be incorporated into future strategies to reduce dementia risk. Dr Janice Ranson, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Exeter and joint lead author of the paper, said: “The findings of this large population-based study underscore the long-term brain health benefits to consume a Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats”.
“Dementia prevention efforts could focus on helping people increase their intake of specific foods and nutrients essential for brain health.”
“The protective effect of this diet against dementia was apparent regardless of a person’s genetic risk, making it likely a beneficial lifestyle choice for people seeking to choose a healthy diet and reduce dementia risk.” . “Future Efforts dementia prevention they could go beyond generic healthy diet advice and focus on helping people increase their intake of specific foods and nutrients that are essential for brain health.”
Diet and genetic risk for developing dementia
The research has been published in BMC Medicine and is one of the largest studies of its kind, as previous work has generally been limited to small samples and included small numbers of dementia cases. To determine each participant’s genetic risk of dementia, they estimated what is known as their polygenic risk, a measure of the different genes associated with dementia risk.
The researchers found that there was no significant interaction between polygenic risk of dementia and associations between adherence to the Mediterranean diet. They say this may indicate that a good diet could decrease the chances of developing dementia even in those with the highest genetic risk.
“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,” said John Mathers, Professor of Human Nutrition at Newcastle University, adding: “Although More research is needed in this area, this strengthens the public health message that we can all help reduce our risk of dementia by following a more Mediterranean diet.”