A Healthy Diet Could Lessen the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

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Wednesday April 1st, 2015

An online report suggests that a new diet may decrease a person’s possibility of developing Alzheimer’s disease by more than half.

Researchers recently studied the effects of three diets on the risk of developing the disease. The three diets were a standard Mediterranean-style diet, the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diet and the MIND (Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet. The latter combines elements of the Mediterranean-style diet and the DASH diet, which is designed to decrease blood pressure and stroke risk.

The research formed a large prospective cohort study of older participants who were taking part in a long-running ageing and memory study. The aim was to find out whether people who consumed diets close to one of the three healthy diets were less likely to receive an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis during the course of the study.

The results showed that older people whose normal diet was similar to any of the three diets listed above were not as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as those who consume a less healthy diet.

Researchers provided volunteers who lived in public housing and retirement communities in Chicago with a questionnaire that assessed their diet. Each participant had annual neurological examinations, which checked for Alzheimer’s disease, for four to five years on average.

923 volunteers filled out the questionnaires, and the researchers assessed how well they scored on each diet. Volunteers were divided into three groups showing high, moderate or low scores for each of the diets. They then looked at whether those in the high scoring groups for each diet were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s during the 4.5 (on average) follow-up year compared with those in the lower scoring groups.

People with the highest scores in all three of the diets were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those with the lowest scores. Those with moderate scores for the MIND diet were also less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s than the lower scoring participants, but that link was not as strong.

According to the researchers, the greatest effect was found in the MIND diet, which is rich in nuts, wholegrains, leafy vegetables and berries, even if people weren’t following it closely. Those who did follow the MIND diet rigorously were 52 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

However, this observational study cannot prove that the diets protect people against Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, just that there is an apparent link between eating healthily and a lower risk of diagnosis. It is not known which diet is best, as they were not compared directly.

The study was carried out by researchers from Harvard School of Public Health, Boston and Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. Grants from the US National Institute on Ageing funded the study. It can be found in the medical journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

The results were adjusted to take other factors that can affect Alzheimer’s risk into account.