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Mediterranean diet helps against Alzheimer's

Tue Oct 10, 2006

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A so-called Mediterranean diet centered on fruits, vegetables, olive oil and a paucity of red meat and dairy products may lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease, for reasons that are unclear, researchers said on Monday.

The finding from Columbia University Medical Center in New York was based on a look at 1,984 adults with an average age of about 76, of whom 194 already had the debilitating brain disease and 1,790 did not. What they ate during the preceding 12 months was analyzed for how well it matched the Mediterranean diet.

After taking into account other possible risk factors for the disease such as age and how fat or thin the test subjects were, researchers found that those in the top third in terms of how their diets matched the Mediterranean model had 68 percent lower odds of having Alzheimer's disease than those in the bottom one-third. Those in the middle third had 53 percent lower odds.

The study, published in the Archives of Neurology, said there is growing evidence that the Mediterranean diet cuts the risk of stroke, heart disease and diabetes, suggesting that vascular factors may contribute to the chances of developing Alzheimer's.

"However, when we considered vascular risk factors in our models, the association between the Mediterranean diet and Alzheimer's disease did not change," the report said, indicating that the diet's apparent protective effect may work through other pathways.

In a second study in the same journal, researchers at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, reported that Omega-3 fatty acid food supplements may slow mental decline in some patients with very mild Alzheimer's disease, but do not appear to affect those with more advanced cases.

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