Does eating a Mediterranean diet protect against memory loss and dementia?

Photo credit: CC0 Public Domain

According to a new study, a Mediterranean diet high in fish, vegetables, and olive oil can protect your brain from protein buildup and shrinkage that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease. The research will be published in the online May 5, 2021 edition of Neurology, the American Academy of Neurology’s medical journal.

The study looked at abnormal proteins called amyloid and tau. Amyloid is a protein that forms into plaques, while tau is a protein that forms into tangles. Both are found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, but can also be found in the brains of older people with normal cognition.

The Mediterranean diet includes a high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, grains, fish, and monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, as well as a low intake of saturated fats, dairy products, and meat.

“Our study suggests that a diet high in unsaturated fats, fish, fruits and vegetables, and low in dairy products and red meat can actually protect your brain from the protein buildup that can lead to memory loss and dementia,” the said Study author Tommaso Ballarini, Ph.D., from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) in Bonn. “These results complement the evidence that what you eat can affect your memory skills later on.”

The study looked at 512 people. Of these, 169 were cognitively normal, while 343 were at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers used their responses to a questionnaire to examine how much they had eaten from 148 items in the previous month, how closely people followed the Mediterranean diet. People who frequently ate healthy foods typical of the Mediterranean diet, such as fish, vegetables, and fruits, and only occasionally ate non-Mediterranean foods, such as red meat, received the highest score for a maximum score of nine.

Cognitive skills were assessed using an extensive Alzheimer’s disease progression test set that examined five different functions, including language, memory, and executive function. All participants had brain scans to determine their brain volume. In addition, 226 spinal fluid was tested for amyloid and tau protein biomarkers.

The researchers then looked at how exactly someone was following the Mediterranean diet and the relationship between their brain volume, tau and amyloid biomarkers, and cognitive abilities.

After adjusting for factors such as age, gender, and education, the researchers found that in the area of ​​the brain most closely linked to Alzheimer’s disease, every point lower on the Mediterranean diet scored nearly a year of brain aging corresponded.

When looking at amyloid and tau in people’s spinal fluid, those who did not strictly follow the diet had higher levels of biomarkers for amyloid and tau pathology than those who did.

When it came to a memory test, people who didn’t follow the diet did worse than those who did.

“More research is needed to understand the mechanism by which a Mediterranean diet protects the brain from protein build-up and loss of brain function. However, the results suggest that people can reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by taking more elements of the Mediterranean diet Include diets in their daily diet, “Ballarini said.

One limitation of the study is the fact that people’s diet was indicated in the questionnaire itself. People may have made mistakes remembering exactly what and how much they ate.

Including unhealthy foods can lessen the positive effects of an otherwise healthy diet provided by the American Academy of Neurology

Quote: Does a Mediterranean diet protect against memory loss and dementia? (2021, May 5) Retrieved May 5, 2021 from

This document is subject to copyright. Except for fair trade for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.