Healthy Heart Foods May Also Protect the Brain

A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the American Neurological Association suggests that a Mediterranean-like diet may protect against Alzheimer’s disease, as well as offer heart-protective benefits.

A typically healthy diet including foods such as cruciferous and green leafy vegetables, omega-3 rich oily fish, nuts and tomatoes, which is also low in high-fat dairy, red meat, offal and butter, is thought to offer a range of nutrients which together lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The strength of this study is its holistic view of the diet as a whole, whereas most studies that look into the link between diet and mental health focus on the role of isolated nutrients and often ignore the complexity of diet and lifestyle patterns.

According to nutrition scientist Dr Nina Bailey, “This study usefully looks at overall diet quality, and gives us a blueprint for us to aim for. It’s unrealistic to put forward one single nutrient as a cure-all, and at Igennus we always emphasise the role of the diet as a whole in achieving and maintaining good health, while offering purified omega-3 EPA supplements to top up the diet, when it’s not possible to achieve clinical doses by way of eating fish alone.”

The research looked at the dietary patterns of 1691 people aged 65 and older, none of whom had signs of dementia when they began the study. Participants completed detailed questionnaires relating to the types of foods they ate in the previous year.

The researchers then assessed various foods in the lab to determine which foods were rich in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E – foods which have previously been strongly linked to lower disease risk – and which were also low in nutrients which have been linked to greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease, including saturated fatty acids.

Based on these nutrient values, it became apparent that a protective dietary pattern was characterised by a diet which resembled the typical Mediterranean diet. Participants were divided into three groups based on how well they adhered to such a diet in the previous year. Over the next four years, 211 people were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, with those in the top third 38% less likely to develop the disease than those in the lowest third.

The study took into account a variety of factors which could also lower disease risk, including exercise, age, smoking, BMI and daily calorie consumption. Encouragingly, these results add further weight to the reasons for following a healthy diet, which we at Igennus Healthcare fully endorse.

Source: 134th Annual Meeting of the American Neurological Association, Baltimore, Oct. 11-14, 2009.

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