Should I follow a Mediterranean diet to lower my risk of Alzheimer’s disease?

The Mediterranean diet has been the subject of intensive research for more than 50 years. The traditional diet in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, which include Italy, France, Morocco and Greece, was considered a “poor man’s” diet as it was developed over the centuries when the population labored to create sustenance in less-hospitable terrains.

The Mayo Clinic studies show that people who closely follow a Mediterranean diet seem less likely to develop cognitive decline compared those other individuals who do not follow the diet. In addition to slowing the cognitive decline in adults, researchers found that following the diet can reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment and reduce its progression into Alzheimer’s disease. The diet has also been shown to lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease as well as promoting a longer lifespan.

A 2013 study from the University of Louisiana’s College of Pharmacy found that extra virgin olive oil, a component used in the Mediterranean diet, lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers found a protective agent called “oleocanthal’ is believed to have effects that protect nerve cells from the kind of damage that occurs in Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related disorders.

The traditional Mediterranean diet includes extra virgin olive oil, vegetables, fruits, lentils and other legumes; moderate consumption of fish, chicken, eggs, dairy, nuts and wine; and little red meat, sugar and processed carbohydrates

This diet regimen also helps older individuals keep their memory and thinking skills sharp and promotes lifelong good health.

The Mediterranean diet features a slightly higher percentage of fat than what most traditional diets recommend.

However, the Mediterranean diet should really be embraced as a lifestyle choice that incorporates a plant-based regimen and a more relaxed and less stressful way of living and eating.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.