Can what you eat help lower your risk of developing dementia? According to research presented at the Alzheimer's Association international conference in London, the answer is yes.
According to the new research, healthy older adults who followed a Mediterranean diet – high in healthy fats (such as olive oil, fish), vegetables, and lean protein – lowered their risk of dementia by a third.
"Eating a healthy plant-based diet is associated with better cognitive function and around 30 percent to 35 percent lower risk of cognitive impairment during aging," said Claire McEvoy, of the University of California-San Francisco's School of Medicine, who led the new study.
To reach their conclusions, McEvoy and her team tracked the eating habits of nearly 6,000 older Americans with an average age of 68. They found that those following the MIND or Mediterranean diet were far less likely to suffer from cognitive impairment.
According to researchers, the longer those individuals stayed on those diets, the better their mental acuity.
“As with anyone, eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is important for overall health. Proper nutrition is important to keep the body strong and healthy. For a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, poor nutrition may increase behavioral symptoms and cause weight loss,” Dr. Keith Fargo, associate director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association, tells Newsmax Health.
“That said, regular, nutritious meals may become a challenge for people with dementia. As person’s cognitive function declines, he or she may become overwhelmed with too many food choices, forget to eat or have difficulty with eating utensils.”
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes on plant-based cooking, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and extra virgin olive oil. Meals focus more on eggs, dairy and poultry instead of meat, while fish is a staple.
The MIND diet combines elements of the Mediterranean diet with the salt-reducing DASH diet. The MIND diet focuses on 10 healthy food groups.
MIND diet creator Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center, studied 923 seniors who followed the eating religiously. She found that 53 percent had a lower chance of getting Alzheimer's disease.
Meanwhile, researchers from Wake Forest School of Medicine found that following the MIND diet had a 34 percent reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer's in a group of adults whose average age was 71.
Another study followed Swedish adults who adhered to the Nordic Prudent Dietary Pattern which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish, and vegetable oils. The adults who stuck to the diet fared better than those who ate more processed foods, in terms of developing cognitive difficulties.
Fargo recommends the following nutritional strategies to help combat dementia:
Eat a balanced, varied diet. That means consuming lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein foods.
Limit saturated fat and cholesterol. Some fat is essential for health, but not all fats are equal. Fats in fish, olive, oil and lean cuts of meat are good choices, but limit solid shortening, lard, and fatty cuts of meats.
Cut down on refined sugars. Often found in processed foods, refined sugars contain calories but lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Indulge your sweet tooth with healthier options like fruit or juice-sweetened baked goods. But note that in the later-stages of Alzheimer’s, if loss of appetite is a problem, adding sugar to foods may encourage eating.
Reduce salt intake. Limit foods with high sodium and use less salt. Most people in the United States consume too much sodium, which affects blood pressure. Cut down by using spices or herbs to season food as an alternative.
Stay hydrated. Be sure to drink water or other liquids throughout the day. You can also consume foods with high water content, such as fruit, soups, milkshakes, and smoothies to avoid dehydration.
© 2022 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.