I just agreed to sign up for another season of the community supported agriculture program that serves my area. We had a break in service, but the fall season will mean resumed weekly deliveries of a share of a farmer’s harvest. The people who are currently receiving a summer CSA share were scheduled to get a weekly share of arugula, basil, bok choy, cucumbers, eggplant or bulb fennel, long beans, mizuna, okra, chili peppers, sweet peppers, salad turnips and sweet potato greens. And I also have started purchasing bulk fish filets and shrimp from a seafood provider, thus giving me another option other than beef, chicken and pork chops to make for dinner.
So why am I telling you this in an Alzheimer’s sharepost? It’s because researchers are increasingly finding evidence that a healthy diet – specifically a Mediterranean diet -- may serve as a “drug” that can help not only improve your brain function, but also protect you from dementia.
A new study out of University of Exeter Medical School in the United Kingdom involved the first systematic review of the literature in which researchers analyzed numerous studies about a Mediterranean diet and cognitive function for consistencies, inconsistencies and common trends.
The researchers reviewed 12 pieces of research. Eleven of these studies were observational while one was a randomized control trial. Their analysis found that in 75 percent of all the studies, a higher adherence to eating a Mediterranean diet was associated not only with better cognitive function, but also with lower rates of cognitive decline and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers did notice that their analysis found that the results regarding the effect of this type of diet on mild cognitive impairment was inconsistent.
"Mediterranean food is both delicious and nutritious, and our systematic review shows it may help to protect the ageing brain by reducing the risk of dementia,” said Dr. Illiana Lourida, who was the study’s lead researcher. “While the link between adherence to a Mediterranean diet and dementia risk is not new, ours is the first study to systematically analyse all existing evidence. Our review also highlights inconsistencies in the literature and the need for further research. In particular research is needed to clarify the association with mild cognitive impairment and vascular dementia. It is also important to note that while observational studies provide suggestive evidence we now need randomized controlled trials to confirm whether or not adherence to a Mediterranean diet protects against dementia."
So what does a Mediterranean diet consist of? First of all, Oldways, which is a continuing professional education accredited provider, points out that this type of diet is really not a “diet” in the sense of only eating it for a short period of time. Instead, it is a lifestyle.
Oldways, the Harvard School of Public Health and the European Office of the World Health Organization introduced the classic Mediterranean diet in 1993. They also developed the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid to graphically represent the pyramid. The diet is based on the dietary traditions of Crete Greece as well as southern Italy around 1960. At this time, the rate of chronic disease among populations in those areas was among the lowest in the world. Furthermore, adult life expectancy was among the highest even though the population had limited access to health care.