Lead researcher Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas, an assistant professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York said, "We have confirmed the association of a Mediterranean diet with Alzheimer's disease."
Scarmeas added that this benefit does not appear to be due to the diet's effect on blood vessels. He said, "The diet could be helping avoid Alzheimer's disease by protection from oxidative stress or by reducing inflammation in the brain."
The reports has been published in the online October issue of the Archives of Neurology.
Scarmeas's team analyzed the data on almost 2,000 people averaging 76 years of age for the diet study. 194 of these had developed Alzheimer's. The researchers analyzed each person's diet during the previous year and scored the diet based on how closely it followed what's known as the Mediterranean diet, which also includes mild-to-moderate drinking and little intake of red meat. Scores ranged from zero to 9. Higher scores were given for closely following a Mediterranean diet.
It was found that people who closely followed that regimen had a significantly lower risk for Alzheimer's disease. And for each additional point on the diet score, risk for Alzheimer's was reduced by 19 to 24 percent.
Scarmeas said, "It seems that this diet is [health] protective. Taking into account that this diet is protective for other conditions such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, obesity and a series of cancers, it seems to make sense to follow this diet anyway, and the diet may also protect from Alzheimer's disease."