Published on: February 21, 2015
by Laura Holland for Express:
The Mediterranean-style diet is likely to cut the risk of developing the disease, according to the latest “comprehensive” research published yesterday.
It found that depression, diabetes, heavy drinking and a lack of vitamin B12 all lead to a higher chance of developing dementia.
And it highlighted the potential benefits of foods rich in vitamin B12 in fighting it.
Describing the British study as “the best evidence to date” on preventing dementia, Dr Claudia Cooper, of University College London, said: “There are strong links between mental and physical health, so keeping your body healthy can also help to keep your brain working properly.
Lifestyle changes to improve diet and mood might help avoid dementia and bring many other health benefits.”
Experts from the university reviewed 62 studies involving 16,000 people worldwide with minor memory problems known as mild cognitive impairment.
MCI is a state between normal ageing and dementia, where someone’s mind is functioning less well than would be expected for their age.
The condition affects a fifth of people over 65.
Over 40 per cent of those with MCI develop dementia within three years compared with three per cent of the general population.
The researchers found that following a Mediterranean diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in meat and saturated fats could be a way of lowering the risk.
They found diabetics were 65 per cent more likely to get dementia and those with psychiatric symptoms such as depression were more than twice as likely to develop the condition.
Heavy drinking also led to a greater likelihood of dementia but the evidence on moderate drinking was inconsistent.
The key finding was that people with lower vitamin B12 levels had a greater chance of developing dementia.
The vitamin is found in fish, eggs, meat and dairy products.
However, as experts recommend lowering meat and saturated fat intake, fish could be a better source.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common in older people and can cause extreme tiredness, a lack of energy, pins and needles, muscle weakness, depression and problems with memory, understanding and judgment.
Dr Clare Walton, research manager at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Research has shown that following a Mediterranean diet that is rich in oily fish, vegetables, olive oil and nuts, and low in saturated fat and red meat, is linked to a lower risk of developing dementia.
This comprehensive study suggests that the same diet can also benefit people with mild memory problems.“Dementia isn’t a natural part of ageing but for those with memory problems it can be hugely stressful not knowing whether they are experiencing normal age-related changes or the start of something more serious.”
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