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Study finds a Mediterranean diet may reduce risk of dementia by almost a quarter

A Mediterranean diet of seafood, wholegrains, nuts, fruit and vegetables could lower the risk of dementia by almost a quarter, according to a recent study.

Significantly the findings suggested that, even for individuals with a higher genetic predisposition to dementia, having a more Mediterranean-like diet reduced the likelihood of developing dementia.

The study which has been ongoing for the past two years, was led by Newcastle University in collaboration with colleagues from Queen’s University Belfast, University of Exeter, the University of East Anglia and the University of Edinburgh and has been published in the medical journal, BMC Medicine.

This was a large-scale project with analysis of data from over 60,000 older adults in the UK, which explored whether individuals who followed a Mediterranean-like diet had a lower risk of developing dementia than those who did not.

The research found that those with the highest level of adherence to a Mediterranean diet had a 23% reduced risk of developing dementia over a nine-year period than those with the lowest level of adherence.

Dr Claire McEvoy, Senior Lecturer in Nutrition and Ageing Research from Queen’s University said: "Most people are unaware that keeping a healthy diet and lifestyle can protect memory and thinking abilities during ageing. This important study shows that eating more vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, fish and olive oil and less processed food, sugary food and red meat, could help to reduce the risk of future dementia in our UK population.”

Dr Oliver Shannon, Lecturer in Human Nutrition & Ageing, and lead author on the study from Newcastle University, said: “Dementia impacts the lives of millions of individuals throughout the world, and there are currently limited options for treating this condition. Finding ways to reduce our risk of developing dementia is, therefore, a major priority for researchers and clinicians. Our study suggests that eating a more Mediterranean-like diet could be one strategy to help individuals lower their risk of dementia.”

Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, is currently the leading cause of death in the UK, and places a considerable burden on individuals, their families, and society at large.

The study was conducted as part of the Medical Research Council funded NuBrain consortium, which is led by Professor Emma Stevenson at Newcastle University, and aims to address the challenge of optimal nutrition for healthy brain ageing.


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