Eating a Mediterranean diet could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by years, new research has found.
Researchers from Edith Cowan University (ECU) found that people who adhere to a Mediterranean diet have significantly slower rates of Amyloid beta (Aβ) accumulation in their brain.
The build-up of Aβ is linked with the development of Alzheimer’s.
Previous ECU research has shown that the Mediterranean diet, which includes lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish and olive oil, can slow cognitive decline.
But this is the first time it has been shown to slow the build-up of Aβ in the brains of people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Not too late to get benefits
Dr Rainey-Smith said one of the most exciting aspects of the research was that you don’t have to be a lifelong adherent to the diet to get the benefits.
“We found that by following a Mediterranean diet for just three years reduced the build-up of Aβ by up to 60 per cent,” she said.
“This tells us that eating a Mediterranean diet could potentially delay the onset of symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease by years.
“So, by following a Mediterranean diet, people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease could buy themselves a few more years with their loved ones before the onset of this terrible affliction.”
Fruit consumption is key
The researchers identified high fruit consumption as the key aspect of the Mediterranean diet that offered the most protection against Alzheimer’s disease.
Lead researcher Dr Stephanie Rainey-Smith said that of all of the characteristics of the Mediterranean diet, fruit consumption was the most strongly related to a reduced build-up of Aβ.
“While all of the aspects of the Mediterranean diet appear to be important for reducing Alzheimer’s risk, in our study, fruit intake provided the greatest benefit,” she said.
Dr Rainey-Smith said it was unclear exactly how fruit slowed the accumulation of Aβ.
“One possibility is that the high concentration of Vitamin C in many fruits that are part of the Mediterranean diet, such as citrus and strawberries, could be the answer as it has been shown to reduce the Aβ burden in mouse models.”
“Another potential factor could be the flavonoids that are present in fruit. Different types of flavonoids have also been shown to be protective against Aβ accumulation in mouse models.”
However, Dr Rainey-Smith still urged people to adhere to the whole Mediterranean diet, rather than just consuming fruit, in order to gain the most benefit.
‘Mediterranean diet adherence and rate of cerebral Aβ-amyloid accumulation: Data from the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle Study of Ageing’ was recently published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.
ECU’s Centre of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Care has also recently identified depression and trouble sleeping as potential risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.
The Centre is also currently investigating if a combination of the spice curcumin and fish oil can potentially delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
The research was supported by the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle Study of Ageing.
(Source: Edith Cowan University, Translational Psychiatry)