Eating a Mediterranean diet that includes lots of vegetables, fruits and legumes can help people with Alzheimer’s live an average 1.3 years longer than people who eat a more traditional Western diet, a new study has found.
The Mediterranean diet includes a high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals, fish, monounsaturated fatty acids; a low intake of saturated fatty acids, dairy products, meat and poultry; and a mild to moderate amount of alcohol whereas a Western diet is higher in saturated fat and meats and lower in fruits and vegetables.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Columbia University Medical Centre in New York, who followed 192 people with Alzheimer’s disease for an average of four and a half years.
They noted that those people who most closely followed a Mediterranean diet were 76 per cent less likely to die during the study period than those who followed the diet the least.
“The more closely people followed the Mediterranean diet, the more they reduced their mortality,” said study author Nikos Scarmeas, MD, MSc, of Columbia University Medical Centre in New York, and member of the American Academy of Neurology.
“For example, Alzheimer’s patients who adhered to the diet to a moderate degree lived an average 1.3 years longer than those people who least adhered to the diet. And those Alzheimer’s patients who followed the diet very religiously lived an average four years longer,” he added.
Scarmeas, who along with colleagues, had previously demonstrated that healthy people who eat a Mediterranean diet lower their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, said that studies were confirming new benefits of the diet.
“New benefits of this diet keep coming out. We need to do more research to determine whether eating a Mediterranean diet also helps Alzheimer’s patients have slower rates of cognitive decline, maintain their daily living skills, and have a better quality of life,” he said.
The study is published in the September 11, 2007, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.