Eating a Mediterranean Diet Could Delay Alzheimer’s Disease by Years

A study published last month suggests that a Mediterranean diet isn’t just good for your heart and waistline but can also stave off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as three-and-a-half years. The findings may present another reason for you to add more fish and olive oil to your diet.

For the study, published online in Neurology, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College measured biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease in 70 volunteers who were between the ages of 30 and 60 and all cognitively normal at the beginning of the study. They reported the subjects’ adherence to the Mediterranean diet, and researchers measured their biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease both at the beginning and at end of the study, three years later. The volunteers were split into two groups: 34 with a high adherence to the Mediterranean diet and 36 with a lower adherence.

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Results revealed that individuals who reported a lower adherence to the Mediterranean diet displayed more biological risk factors for Alzheimer's disease at both the baseline and at the end of the study than those who reported a greater adherence to this diet. These risk factors included more beta-amyloid, a protein that is often found in clumps in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, and worse metabolization of glucose in brain cells, another trait associated with the disease, New Scientist reported. Based on these results, the researchers estimated that adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with 1.5 to 3.5 years of protection from the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

05_02_diet The Mediterranean diet is rich in natural oils and fish. A study published last month suggests that it’s not only good for your heart and waistline but can also stave off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as three-and-a-half years. David Silverman/Getty Images

The benefits of the Mediterranean diet have been widely documented and include helping to lower cholesterol, weight loss, improving rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and even extending dieters’ life span. However, it’s still not clear what specific aspect of this diet causes these health benefits.

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This is not the first time that the Mediterranean diet has been associated with protection from Alzheimer’s disease. Ralph Martins at Edith Cowen University, in Australia, who was not affiliated with this research but completed previous research on the Mediterranean diet and Alzheimer’s disease, suggested to New Scientist that these new results are understated. According to Martins, the diet may not only prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease but may actually protect individuals from the illness altogether, when combined with other healthy lifestyle behaviors, New Scientist reported.

Research will continue to explore the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and what the underlying reason for these benefits may be.

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