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Mediterranean diet can help prevent dementia

A traditional Mediterranean diet rich in seafood, fruits, and nuts reduces the risk of dementia by almost a quarter, according to a study led by Newcastle University.

According to the researchers, the current study is one of the largest of its kind. Previous studies were limited due to small sample sizes and only focusing on patients already diagnosed with dementia.

Participants were followed for 10 years

The researchers analysed data from 60,298 individuals from the UK Biobank, a large cohort with participants from across the UK who had also completed a dietary assessment. The team assessed individuals based on how closely their diet aligned with the characteristics of the Mediterranean diet. The participants were followed for almost a decade, during which 882 cases of dementia occurred. Oliver Shannon, Emma Stevenson, and David Llewellyn also considered estimates of polygenic risk, which is a measure of the various genes associated with the risk of dementia.

However, no significant interaction was found between the polygenic risk of dementia and adherence to the Mediterranean diet. This suggests that improved nutrition may reduce the likelihood of developing the disease even in individuals with a higher genetic risk. However, this result was not consistent across all analyses. The study authors emphasize that more research is needed to demonstrate the interaction between diet and dementia.

Japan, Italy, and Germany particularly affected by dementia.

The German Alzheimer's Society estimates the number of people with dementia in Germany in 2021 to be around 1.8 million. The age group of 80 years and older is particularly affected by neurodegenerative diseases. According to data from Alzheimer's Disease International, Germany is one of the OECD countries with the highest prevalence of dementia, with approximately 21.8 cases per 1,000 population.

Dementia is even more prevalent in countries such as Italy (23.7 cases per 1,000) and Japan (26.7 cases per 1,000). According to researchers, the prevalence of brain diseases is expected to significantly increase in almost every country by 2050. China is projected to be particularly affected, with the prevalence expected to triple by 2050.

Health experts in Spain also predict a doubling of dementia cases to 41.3 per 1,000. Globally, the OECD predicts around 42 million cases of dementia by 2050. The significant increase is primarily due to the rapidly aging population in industrialized countries.

While treatment methods are not available in many OECD countries, health and care systems can do a lot to improve the care and quality of life of people with dementia. In recent years, at least 25 OECD countries have announced the development of national dementia plans or strategies.

Focus on UK and Ireland participants only.

It should be noted that the analysis by the researchers currently only includes participants from the UK and Ireland who self-identified as "white" in terms of their ethnic background. Genetic data was also only available for participants with European ancestry. The conclusion of the scientists is that a Mediterranean diet could be an important intervention in future strategies for the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.

Previous studies have also found a positive effect of the Mediterranean diet on health.

This article is from the 2/2023 issue of the magazine "Life Abroad".

The magazine is published four times a year free of charge with many informative articles on foreign topics.

It is published by the BDAE, the expert for protection abroad.