The Mediterranean diet has long been reputed for benefiting heart health and supporting weight loss. Recent studies now link the Mediterranean diet with a reduced risk of dementia and overall cognitive decline. Consuming this healthy diet can actually protect the brain from disease.
The National Institutes of Health estimates that more than five million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia. Brain changes occur in patients living with the disease, but these changes happen decades before dementia symptoms first appear.
Researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine discovered differences between brain imaging scans conducted on two groups of study participants, one that consumed a standard Western diet and another that ate a Mediterranean diet. The results may be indicative of early Alzheimer’s disease.
The brain scans showed that participants who primarily ate a Western diet had significantly larger amounts of beta-amyloid deposits than those who consumed a Mediterranean diet. Beta-amyloid is a protein the collects in the brains of people living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Furthermore, the studies showed that people who consumed a Western diet displayed lower energy use, which is indicative of brain activity. During later follow-up brain scans, individuals who ate a Western diet showed even greater beta-amyloid deposits and reduced energy use.
Lower energy use and the buildup of beta-amyloid deposits suggest the early development of dementia. These research findings are preliminary, and additional research on larger numbers of diverse people over a longer period of time is necessary to achieve conclusive findings.
Although more research must be conducted to better understand how the Mediterranean diet may protect individuals from adverse brain changes, it is clear that a healthy diet contributes to better brain functioning and reduces the risk of developing dementias, like Alzheimer’s disease.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is made up of traditional foods eaten by people living in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, like France, Spain, Greece, and Italy. Individuals from these regions have a lower risk of chronic ailments and are considered to be exceptionally healthy.
Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and healthy fats are the primary foods in the Mediterranean diet. Processed foods, added sugars, and refined grains are avoided. The Mediterranean diet is recommended to those wishing to protect themselves against chronic disease.
What foods are recommended in the Mediterranean diet?
Healthy plant foods make up the bulk of the Mediterranean diet. Processed meats, animal products, refined oils, refined grains, and refined sugars, which are a core part of a standard Western diet, are consumed in small quantities in the Mediterranean diet.
Older adults who wish to follow the Mediterranean diet are advised to incorporate vegetables into their daily diet. Broccoli, tomatoes, kale, potatoes, turnips, Brussels sprouts, and cucumbers are a few examples of vegetables that may be consumed in the Mediterranean diet.
Fruits are an integral part of the Mediterranean diet. Include apples, oranges, pears, bananas, figs, dates, melons, and peaches into the daily diet whenever these products are in season. Also consume nuts and seeds, like macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, and peanut butter.
Fish and seafood, such as tuna, salmon, sardines, shrimp, crab, and oysters, are central to the Mediterranean diet. Oily fish contains a high level of omega-3 fatty acids, which build membranes around brain cells, thereby improving the structure of brain cells known as neurons.
Serve legumes, like chickpeas, peas, lentils, and beans, as a side dish; peanuts are a healthy snack. Additional foods in the Mediterranean diet include whole grains, such as pasta, whole wheat bread, corn, and oats. Chicken, turkey, and other poultry are recommended proteins in the Mediterranean diet.
Seniors who follow the Mediterranean diet may also consume dairy, including cheese, yogurt, and milk. Sprinkle foods with the herbs and spices found in the Mediterranean diet, such as garlic, nutmeg, pepper, and basil. Healthy fats, like extra virgin olive oil and avocados are recommended.
Water is considered to be the ideal beverage in the Mediterranean diet. A moderate amount of red wine—one glass per day—can be consumed. Coffee and tea are excellent choices for those who follow the Mediterranean diet; be sure to avoid adding excess sugar and cream.
Researchers estimate that people who follow the Mediterranean diet for several years may experience a three-and-a-half-year delay in the progression of dementia. Unsaturated fats, fish, fruits, and vegetables can protect the brain from the protein buildup associated with dementia and memory loss.
Although research is still ongoing to determine exactly how the Mediterranean diet protects the brain from dementia, those who follow this diet score better on memory tests than those who choose a different diet. Seniors are encouraged to eat foods that belong to the Mediterranean diet.
Based on current research, seniors can reduce their risk for dementia by eating foods in the Mediterranean diet. When your elderly loved one needs help shopping for fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood, the caregivers from Assisting Hands Home Care will provide the support they need.
Our home care agency provides in-home dementia care to seniors in the comfort of home. Professional caregivers assist elderly individuals suffering from dementia with all the activities of daily living. We help with personal hygiene tasks, transportation needs, medication reminders, and light housekeeping.
Dementia care from Assisting Hands Home Care is comprehensive. Our caregivers are trained to manage dementia symptoms, such as wandering, incontinence, and agitation, and compassionately support the senior. We are also excellent companions to dementia patients, keeping loneliness and isolation at bay.
Our Alzheimer’s and Dementia home care services are available to seniors living in BallenIsles, Boynton Beach, Jupiter, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Royal Palm Beach, Singer Island, Wellington, West Palm Beach, Florida and surrounding areas. To learn more, call us at (561) 781-5885.