by: David Gutierrez
Alzheimer's patients who eat a Mediterranean diet have a higher survival rate than patients who eat a more traditional Western diet, according to new research published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The Mediterranean diet is characterized by large quantities of vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, monounsaturated fatty acids and fish; low amounts of saturated fats, dairy, poultry and red meat; and a low to moderate alcohol intake. In contrast, the Western diet is typically high in saturated fats, hydrogenated oils, meat and dairy, and is low in fruits and vegetables.
Researchers studied 192 New York Alzheimer's patients for an average of four and a half years, monitoring their diet and the progression of the disease. Those who followed the Mediterranean diet most closely had a 76 percent lower risk of death over the course of the study than those who deviated from it.
“The more closely people followed the Mediterranean diet, the more they reduced their mortality,” said lead researcher Nikos Scarmeas of the Columbia University Medical Center. “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 [of] four years longer.”
Prior studies have linked the Mediterranean diet to lowered risk of heart disease, longer life and improvement in the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. A previous study by Scarmeas and colleagues showed that healthy people eating a Mediterranean diet are less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those on a Western diet.
According to Scarmeas, the next step is to see if the Mediterranean diet actually slows the progress of Alzheimer's.
“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.