Western Daily Press

Mediterran­ean diet may protect from Alzheimer’s

- NINA MASSEY Press Associatio­n

EATING a Mediterran­ean diet that is rich in fish, vegetables and olive oil may protect the brain from protein build-up and shrinkage that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests.

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 may also be found in the brains of older people with normal cognition.

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

Study author Tommaso Ballarini, of the German Centre for Neurodegen­erative Diseases (DZNE) in Bonn, Germany, said: “Our study suggests that eating a diet that’s high in unsaturate­d fats, fish, fruits and vegetables, and low in dairy and red meat may actually protect your brain from the protein build-up that can lead to memory loss and dementia.

These results add to the body of evidence that show what you eat may influence your memory skills later on.”

Researcher­s looked at 512 people – 169 of whom were cognitivel­y normal, while 343 were identified as being at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

They analysed how closely people followed the Mediterran­ean diet based on their answers to a questionna­ire asking how much they ate of 148 items, the previous month.

People who often ate healthy foods typical of the Mediterran­ean diet, like fish, vegetables and fruit, and only occasional­ly ate foods nontypical of the Mediterran­ean diet, like red meat, received the highest scores, for a maximum score of nine.

Cognitive skills were assessed with an extensive test set for Alzheimer’s disease progressio­n that looked at five different functions, including language, memory and executive function.

All of the participan­ts had brain scans to determine their brain volume, and the spinal fluid of 226 was tested for amyloid and tau protein biomarkers.

The study then looked at how closely someone followed the Mediterran­ean diet, and the relationsh­ip to both their brain volume, tau and amyloid biomarkers, and cognitive skills.

After adjusting for factors like age, sex and education, researcher­s found that in the area of the brain most closely associated with Alzheimer’s disease, every point lower people scored on the Mediterran­ean diet scale was equal to almost one year of brain ageing.

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

People who did not follow the diet closely scored worse than those who did in a memory test.

The researcher­s say one limitation of their study is the fact that people’s diets were self-reported in the questionna­ire, and they may have made errors recalling exactly what and how much they ate.

The research is published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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