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Can the Mediterranean diet cut dementia risk?
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While fads come and go (cabbage soup diet, anyone?), the Mediterranean diet has been considered one of the healthiest in the world for decades.
It’s been linked to a decreased risk of heart disease and mortality from all causes, as well as improved cognitive function. Now, a huge study found a connection between the Mediterranean diet and a substantially reduced risk of all-cause dementia.
If visions of freshly cut tomatoes and drizzles of olive oil have your mouth watering, let’s explore why you now have another reason to serve it up.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
Unlike many buzzy eating trends, the Mediterranean diet is not a flash in the pan. Rather, it’s a dietary pattern found in a particular region – around Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece – that has been internationally renowned for its health benefits since the 1960s.
On your plate, the Mediterranean diet looks like this:
A high proportion of fresh, seasonal and unprocessed plant foods, including fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grain cereals, nuts and seeds. (Bonus: There’s evidence many of these foods contribute to lower levels of dangerous visceral fat.)
A high intake of healthy fats found in olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, seafood and oily fish.
A moderate intake of poultry, eggs and dairy products.
A low intake of red meat.
Besides making us dream of chasing the sun to a rustic villa by the ocean, the Mediterranean diet has also been an inspiration for our meal plans on Centr.
The benefits of this diet for dementia risk
After closely following the diets of 60,000 people for around nine years, the researchers behind this recent study found that high adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a 23 percent decrease in the risk of all-cause dementia.
Even in those people genetically predisposed to cognitive decline, the Mediterranean diet appeared to help lower the risk – although this needs further research.
Given that the treatments for dementia are limited, the possibility of dietary intervention and prevention has sparked a lot of interest.
While populational studies like this one are useful, keep in mind that they can only show correlation and not causation – there are too many variables from person to person to say that a Mediterranean diet definitely lowers dementia risk.
But as one of the study’s lead authors, Dr. Oliver Shannon, said: “The findings from our study contribute towards a growing body of evidence that following a more Mediterranean-like diet could be an effective way to ‘oil your cogs’ and reduce your risk of developing dementia.”
Feeling hungry yet? Let’s dig in.
6 easy Mediterranean dinner recipes
Adopting a Mediterranean-inspired diet doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Even small tweaks may have positive health impacts.
With plenty of Mediterranean-style recipes in the Centr meal plan, we’ve picked some of our favorites to get you started.
Remember: While these recipes are nutritious and dietitian-approved, there is no guarantee that eating any single meal or food group will reduce your dementia risk.
A simple fish recipe is packed with protein and healthy fats.
It's easy, it's tasty, it's perfect for leftover lunch the next day. Plus, it’s got plenty of fiber thanks to the nutritional powerhouse that is cauliflower.
Oily fish like salmon provides a healthy dose of Omega-3s for brain health.
With inspiration from the Italian corner of the Mediterranean, this pizza piles up the greens.
Make a moderate dairy product intake count with this creamy and delicious pasta.
Centr x Lifespan.io
Centr has partnered with Lifespan.io to bring you the latest in longevity research. Lifespan.io is the leading source of industry news and a nonprofit advocacy foundation whose mission is to accelerate progress toward overcoming age-related diseases. Since 2014, the organization has focused on responsible journalism, high-impact advocacy, and media initiatives that make longevity research and education more accessible to all.
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