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Is a Mediterranean Diet the Answer to Help Prevent Dementia?

2012-04-02

Research shows the importance of exercise on brain health. There has also been lots of research examining the effect of diet on cognitive function. Diet is obviously an important factor in our physical and mental health, but can a certain diet help prevent dementia or Alzheimer's?

It's hard to know with total certainty if there are any “magic” foods out there, but there is some evidence that a Mediterranean style diet can be beneficial in terms of brain health. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), there have been studies showing an association between a Mediterranean diet and decreased risk of Alzheimer's disease or dementia. It should be noted that this doesn't necessarily mean a direct causation, but there seems to be evidence nonetheless.

A Mediterranean diet usually consists of lots of plant foods, some fish, low levels of dairy, and moderate amounts of meat and poultry. Plant foods may include vegetables, leafy greens, legumes, and fruits. Olive oil is the main source of monounsaturated fat. Mediterranean diets generally only allow for minimal intake of saturated fat.

According to one study found in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Mediterranean foods and nutrients such as monounsaturated fatty acids, vitamins B12 and folate, vitamin E, and fish might have protective properties that work against cognitive decline in older people. These foods could potentially protect against dementia.

So if you're like most of the population and you're worried about Alzheimer's, you might want to start putting a Mediterranean spin on things in the kitchen. Here's a quick list of some other brain healthy foods:

1. Spices - cinnamon, rosemary, turmeric, and oregano. These spices increase blood flow and reduce inflammation

2. Whole Grains - substitute whole wheat for white bread, pasta and rice

3. Omega 3 Fatty Acids - These are naturally found in your brain but the levels drop as you age. Fish, veggies, nuts, and flax seed will help replenish omega 3 fatty acids and help brain function

4. Fresh fruits - blueberries, oranges, and raspberries to name a few