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Traditional Mediterranean Diet against Alzheimer’s Disease

A recent report from the World Health Organisation forecasts the number of people living with dementia to rise to 66 million by 2030 from today’s 36 million. Given this bleak outlook, nutrition experts are continuously looking for foods like fish or fish oil, which could offer some sort of natural protection. But why stop there, why stick with just one food such as fish when we all eat a whole range of different foods every day? We often tend to get excited about a single food or nutrient and how it can be a solution for all of our existing health problems. In any case, how else could the silly concept of the ‘superfood’ have gained so much credibility? In fact, we are placing our bets on whole diets, not just single foods, to actually making a difference when it comes to our resilience against chronic degenerative ailments such as Alzheimer’s.

There is hardly any better example we can come up with than the traditional Mediterranean diet. Evidence is mounting to show that this particular dietary pattern, abundant in seasonal fruits and vegetables, wholegrain cereals and breads, legumes, nuts, fish, lashings of olive oil and all that washed down with a moderate amount of wine, provides a degree of protection against the modern-day chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. And, to this list of maladies, we can also add Alzheimer’s. Numerous components of the Mediterranean diet offer potential neuro-protective benefits, and yes, that does include light-to-moderate consumption of alcohol, which is linked with a reduced risk of dementia. Combine all these tasty ingredients together and not only do we have some delicious food, but also a strong candidate for an overall diet that will protect our mental abilities as we age.

But to many of us all this may sound a bit distant. Dementia is largely a disease of ageing, so perhaps we should push any concerns to one side and not worry about any of this until we hit ripe old age. Whilst sometimes it is better not to know everything, it is a risky strategy. A recently published study of British Civil Servants found proof that, rather than beginning in old age as it is generally believed, cognitive decline (set of mental processes and abilities related to knowledge such as memory, attention, reasoning and computation, judgement and evaluation) can actually be recognised already in middle age, starting at the age of 45, and possibly even earlier. As we all know, prevention is better than cure; therefore, we can conclude that adopting the traditional Mediterranean diet sooner, rather than later, is a prudent step for protecting our grey matter.