February 10, 2009

Med diet linked to less cognition risk

Eating a Mediterranean diet appears to be associated with less risk of mild cognitive impairment, New York researchers said.

Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas and colleagues at Columbia University Medical Center in New York calculated a score for adherence to the Mediterranean diet among 1,393 individuals with no cognitive problems and 482 patients with mild cognitive impairment.

Study participants were examined, interviewed, screened for cognitive impairments and asked to complete a food frequency questionnaire from 1992 to1999. Among the 482 with mild cognitive impairment at the beginning of the study, 106 developed Alzheimer's disease an average of 4.3 years after follow-up.

The study, published in the Archives of Neurology, found that adhering to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower risk for this transition from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's disease. The one-third of participants with the highest scores for Mediterranean diet adherence had 48 percent less risk and those in the middle one-third of Mediterranean diet adherence had 45 percent less risk than the one-third with the lowest scores, the study said.

The Mediterranean diet is characterized by high intakes of fish, vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals and unsaturated fatty acids, low intakes of dairy products, meat and saturated fats and moderate alcohol consumption, Scarmeas said.