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Mediterranean Diet and Cognitive Impairment

Is it the fish? The olive oil? Those legumes, grains and fruit? Or perhaps that daily dose of red wine?

Nobody knows exactly which component of the Mediterranean diet makes it such a healthful way of eating. But evidence that it's good for you continues to mount.

The latest: A study in the February issue of the Archives of Neurology showed that people who stuck closely to the Mediterranean diet saw reduced risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. MCI is often a stepping stone on the way to Alzheimer's Disease. The study further showed that people who already suffered MCI and who ate the Mediterranean way had lowered risk of slipping into Alzheimer's.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center tracked data from 1,393 people collected over the course of about 4.5 years. They divided participants into three categories according to the degree to which they adhered to the Mediterranean diet.

Among participants who had no cognitive impairment at the start, those who adhered most closely to the diet had a 28-percent lower risk of developing MCI than those who adhered least closely. Those in the middle group were 17 percent less likely than those in the bottom group to develop MCI.

Among people who had MCI at the start, those who stuck most closely to the Mediterranean diet were 48 percent less likely to move on to Alzheimer's than those who strayed most from the diet's tenets. Even those in the middle group saw a 45-percent reduction in that risk over those in the bottom group.

The Mediterranean diet has been linked to improvements in such MCI risk factors as blood pressure, blood-sugar levels, blood-vessel health and inflammation (which are also risk factors in other conditions such as cancer and heart disease). The study's authors note that the diet's impact on cognition may be related to an individual component such as alcohol or fish, both of which have been tied to brain health.

But the mystery remains: Is it some single food, or some mysterious combination of nutrients or other aspects of the diet that works the magic?

I'm not waiting around to find out: I've been working the Mediterranean diet into my family's menu for months now.

What will it take to convince you?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  February 10, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
 
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Comments

Don't you think it is the ABSENCE of many foods that makes this a healthy diet? No Little Debbies, No McDonald's, No m&m's, no cokes - that is what is killing us and our children. ANY diet that focuses on "REAL" foods that are not prepackaged and are fresh will improve anyone's health.

Posted by: Minny1 | February 10, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Don't you think that people with Alzheimer's might be less able to stick to some fad diet?

Posted by: sturtx | February 10, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

My hunch is that the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet will never be attributed to a single food, but, instead, to the combination of various foods.

There's no other diet that can legitimately claim to reduce cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer (breast, colon, prostate, uterus), dementia, Parkinson's disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, AND prolong life.

-Steve Parker, M.D., blogger at http://AdvancedMediterraneanDiet.com/blog/

Posted by: SteveParkerMD | February 11, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I don't know what to think about this article..

Fred Smilek is the acting president of the Society to Save Endangered Species. It was founded two years ago by Fred Smilek along with his two best friends Charles and Jonathan.

http://fredjsmilek.com

Posted by: fredsmilek | February 12, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

When shopping for your table try to stay with fresh foods, natural foods like butter and eggs not margarine and substitutes for eggs. Check out the labels on foods you buy. I was looking at chicken recently and most were infused with salt and other things. Why? I personally feel processed and chemical add ons in our natural foods is extremely harmful.Avoid canned foods wherever possible and read your labels. If you must use canned foods or vegies rinse them in plain water for a while before preparing

Posted by: Joan850 | February 13, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

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