The Link Between Your Diet and Dementia

Tim Watt  |  July 21, 2011

A recent study conducted by Swedish researchers recently brought the relationship of a healthy diet and dementia into the spotlight for many experts. The team evaluated 8,534 twins, age 65 and over, gauging their body mass index (BMI). Nearly 30 percent of participants were overweight at the start of the research.

Overall, it seemed that being overweight or obese can increase the risk of Alzheimer's or vascular dementia by 80 percent. The trend suggests that controlling your diet, particularly during your 50s and 60s, could prove immensely beneficial.

"Currently, 1.6 billion adults are overweight or obese worldwide and over 50 percent of adults in the United States and Europe fit into this category," said study author, Weili X. "Our results contribute to the growing evidence that controlling body weight or losing weight in middle age could reduce your risk of dementia."

However, the findings did not come as a surprise to some professionals in the field. A 2008 review of data discovered that obesity could increase the risk of dementia by 42 percent, vascular dementia by 73 percent and Alzheimer's disease by 80 percent. The fact that the two studies had such closely correlated results indicates that weight could have a serious impact on a person's risk for neurological disorders.

Preventing or treating obesity at a younger age could play a major role in reducing the number of dementia patients and those with other commonly associated illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease by up to 20 percent in the United States," said Youfa Wang, senior author of the study.

Families who are taking care of a loved one with dementia may already know the burden of Alzheimer's care, whether the senior is at home or in an assisted living community. Individuals looking to mitigate their own risk for the condition may want to follow a new diet - Dr. Tim Harlan writes on The Huffington Post that the Mediterranean diet may do wonders for both the mind and body in this regard.

In fact, Harlan cites one study in which "participants who scored in the upper third of the defined categories of a Mediterranean diet were found to have a 60 percent lower risk of Alzheimer's disease than people not on the diet."

A Mediterranean diet generally consists of fish, nuts, legumes and breads while recommending just a few servings of red meat each month.

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