Dementia is the progressive decline of cognitive function and this decline leads to a person’s inability to do routine daily activities. Yearly, 7.7 million people are diagnosed with dementia, and there is no direct cure for it. Dementia rates are expected to triple to reach 135.5 million people living with dementia in 2050 worldwide.
Risk factors for dementia can be either reversible or irreversible. The majority of risk factors are reversible factors including cardiovascular diseases (CVD), diabetes, depression, excessive alcohol intake, smoking, physical inactivity and poor dietary habits. Age and family history are irreversible risk factors for dementia.
Some potential strategies to aid in slowing cognitive decline do exist; for example, several dietary strategies hold promise. Recently, data is emerging showing that the Mediterranean diet could aid in delaying the progression of cognitive decline; the Alzheimer’s society recommends the Mediterranean diet as an approach to improve memory and cognitive function.
The Mediterranean diet is the traditional dietary pattern followed by people residing on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. There is no unified consensus on what the Mediterranean diet is, however, the key concepts are the same across all Mediterranean countries. The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high intake of favourable foods such as fruits and nuts, vegetables, cereals (including bread and potatoes), legumes, fish and a low consumption of unfavourable foods such as meats/meat products, poultry and dairy products.
The Mediterranean diet is not considered a diet that is low in fats; fat content ranges from 28–40% of the total dietary intake. However, it is low in saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids due to its low content of animal meats and processed foods. Olive oil, oleic acid, a beneficial monounsaturated fatty acid is the major contributor to this fat content which makes it a healthy dietary pattern regardless of its high fat content.
The Mediterranean diet lowers the risk of cognitive decline by reducing the risk of developing CVD, a known risk factor for dementia, and it also has an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effect. Results show that the Mediterranean diet does not only play a protective role against cognitive decline, but it might also decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Various observational studies have shown the beneficial effect of the Mediterranean diet against dementia.
The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diets and it has been linked to decreased risks of various chronic diseases such as CVD, obesity, hypertension and diabetes. In addition, most recently, the Mediterranean diet has been linked to decreased risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Source: Aridi et al. Nutrients 2017
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