Combining exercise and the Mediterranean-type diet can cut the chances of developing Alzheimer's by as much as 60 per cent, a new study shows.
Mediterranean-type diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, cereal and fish and low in red meat, dairy and poultry.
Nikolaos Scarmeas, M.D., of Columbia University Medical Center, New York, and colleagues examined the association between physical activity and risk of AD and also the effect of physical activity and adherence to a Mediterranean-type diet on AD risk. The study included 2 groups that consisted of 1,880 community-dwelling elderly residents of New York city without dementia at the start of the study, for whom there was both diet and physical activity information available.
Standardized neurological and neuropsychological measures were administered approximately every 1.5 years from 1992 through 2006.
The participants received measurements of their adherence to a Mediterranean-type diet (scale of 0-9; categorized as low, middle, or high) and their physical activity (sum of weekly participation in various physical activities, weighted by the type of physical activity [light, moderate, vigorous]; categorized into no physical activity, some, or much, also low or high), separately and combined.
A higher score for diet was obtained with higher consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, and fish; lower consumption of meat and dairy products; a higher ratio of monounsaturated fats to saturated fats and mild to moderate alcohol consumption.
Individuals were followed up for an average of 5.4 years, during which a total of 282 developed AD. In considering only physical activity, the researchers found that more physical activity was associated with lower risk for developing AD.
"Compared with physically inactive individuals, report of some physical activity was associated with a 29 percent to 41 percent lower risk of developing AD, while report of much physical activity was associated with a 37 percent to 50 percent lower risk," the authors write.
When considered simultaneously, both physical activity and Mediterranean diet adherence were significantly associated with AD incidence.
According to the researchers, "Belonging to the middle diet adherence tertile was associated with a 2 percent to 14 percent risk reduction, while belonging to the highest diet adherence tertile was associated with a 32 percent to 40 percent reduced risk.
"Similarly, compared with individuals with no physical activity, individuals reporting some physical activity had a 25 percent to 38 percent lower risk for AD, while individuals reporting much physical activity had a 33 percent to 48 percent lower risk for AD."
The authors also write, "Compared with individuals with low physical activity plus low adherence to a diet (absolute AD risk, 19 percent), high physical activity plus high diet adherence was associated with a 35 percent to 44 percent relative risk reduction (absolute AD risk, 12 percent). Absolute AD risks declined from 21 percent in the group with no physical activity plus low diet adherence to 9 percent in the group with much physical activity plus high diet adherence."