A Mediterranean diet, "rich in seafood, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and olive oil," may help significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia, according to a new study, NBC News reports.
The research involved analyzing data from 60,298 people participating in the U.K. Biobank study, who were tracked for a little over nine years. The participants were between 40 and 69 years old and were of white British or Irish descent. Researchers monitored how closely they followed the Mediterranean diet using two questionnaires widely used in previous studies. Throughout the study period, there were 882 cases of dementia in the group. After analyzing the data, the researchers found that following the diet closely "reduces a person's likelihood of developing dementia by nearly one quarter, even among those with genes that put that at greater risk," NBC adds.
"The main take-home message from this study is that, even for individuals with a higher genetic risk, consuming a more Mediterranean-like diet could reduce the likelihood of developing dementia," said the study's lead author, Oliver Shannon, a lecturer in human nutrition and aging at Newcastle University.
Among those who chose a diet that least resembled a Mediterranean diet, "around 17 in every 1,000 individuals developed dementia during the approximately nine year study follow-up period," Shannon said in an email to NBC. On the other hand, among those who chose food more closely aligned with the diet, "only around 12 of every 1,000 individuals developed dementia," he added.
While there is "a wealth of evidence that eating a healthy, balanced diet can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline," Susan Mitchell, head of policy at Alzheimer's Research UK, told CNN, "evidence for specific diets is much less clear cut." Mitchell was not involved in the study and said while the study "adds to this overall picture," it only has data from people with white, British, or Irish ancestry.
"More research is needed to build on its intriguing findings and uncover whether these reported benefits also translate to minority communities, where historically dementia has often been misunderstood and highly stigmatised, and where awareness of how people can reduce their risk is low," she said.