From unlocking the secret to eternal youth to warding off illness and disease, most of us have heard that the Mediterranean diet is good for us.
Rich in rainbows of fruit, vegetables, legumes, fish and other delicious goodness, it stands to reason that this fresh, natural diet can help our body in more ways than one.
Yet, now more than ever, you might want to start piling your plate high with Med-inspired dishes, after a new study linked it to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study, carried out by researchers at UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behaviour, discovered that enjoying a healthy, Mediterranean diet combined with plenty of exercise and a normal BMI can reduce protein build-ups which are thought to trigger Alzheimer's disease.
An amazing thought, particularly when you consider that dementia affects around 850,000 people in the UK alone – and it could rise as high as two million by 20511.
In the study, 44 adults aged 40 to 85 (the mean age was a little under 63) with mild memory problems but no dementia underwent a special PET scan to measure plaque and tangles in the brain (both thought to be indicators of Alzheimer’s). At the same time, the researchers gathered information about their BMI, levels of physical activity, diet and other lifestyle factors.
The study found that each one of several lifestyle factors - a healthy BMI, plenty of exercise and a Mediterranean diet - were linked to lower levels of these plaques and tangles on the brain. In other words, the healthier a person’s lifestyle or diet, the healthier their brain!
Well, quite simply, if you’re enjoying a healthy diet, exercising lots and are a healthy weight, then keep doing what you’re doing!
Previous studies have linked a healthy lifestyle to delays in the onset of Alzheimer's. However, this was the first ever study which showed how our lifestyle can affect abnormal proteins in people with subtle memory loss who haven’t yet been diagnosed with dementia. Impressively, living a healthy lifestyle is even thought to reduce shrinking of the brain and lower rates of atrophy in people with Alzheimer's.
As study author Merrill said: "The study reinforces the importance of living a healthy life to prevent Alzheimer's, even before the development of clinically significant dementia.
"This work lends key insight not only into the ability of patients to prevent Alzheimer's disease but also physicians' ability to detect and image these changes."
The next step in the research will be to combine imaging with intervention studies of diet, exercise and other modifiable lifestyle factors, such as stress and cognitive health.
Pretty impressive, right? For many reasons, we’re huge fans of the Mediterranean diet and this only convinces us more to embrace that lifestyle along with our daily exercise!
If you want to know more about the wonders of the Mediterranean diet (and even how it can help to relieve Depression2), then get clicking – we have all sorts of information on our website3! You might also be interested in reading all about the World’s Healthiest Diets.
If you have any tips or advice, then we’d love to hear from you! Get tweeting or contact us here.
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Sam Hadadi is an ex-BBC journalist and now a freelance writer specialising in fitness and food.