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Being Apple-Shaped and the Risk of Dementia
We know that being apple-shaped is more of a health risk than is being pear-shaped. Body fat that is centralized to the abdomen (being apple-shaped) is a strong risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and death from all causes, just by itself.
Fruits, Vegetables and Your Brain
We know from recent studies that following a Mediterranean-style diet reduces your risk of Alzheimer's and can also slow the normal decline in cognition as one ages. I've written about how drinking juice, a good source of polyphenols, can also help you reduce your risk of Alzheimer's, and I've also reported on how eating fish can also help you avoid mental decline.
Diet, Obesity and Alzheimer's Disease
I was asked recently about the relationship between diet and Alzheimer's Disease. This is a great question since we tend to focus on more traditional health benefits of eating well like heart disease, stroke and diabetes. This was in response to a recent study published in the journal Neurology.
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Several years ago I reported on a study that confirmed previous studies looking at the connection between following a Mediterranean style diet and the risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease (Bite, 10/18/06). Remember the nine areas of the Mediterranean-style diet? In this study, those whose diet matched the Mediterranean diet in 6 to 9 areas had a 60% lower risk of developing Alzheimer's than those whose diet only matched in 1-3 areas.
With this in mind, researchers in New York, New York sought to find out if the amount of exercise an individual participated in would also have any effect on their risk of Alzheimer's Disease (JAMA 2009;302(6):627-637).
They recruited 1,880 elderly adults without dementia to participate in the study, which lasted from 1992 through 2006. At the start of the study and at intervals throughout the study, the subjects were given cognitive tests to assess any development of dementia. They were also surveyed regarding their regular diet and any exercise they engaged in, including the type of exercise and how long and how often they exercised per week.
As in the previous study, the participants' diets were given a score of 1 or 0 for each component of the Mediterranean Diet. Then they were grouped into three levels of adherence: low (0-3 points), middle (4-5 points) and high (7-9 points). Their amounts and types of exercise were similarly grouped into 3 levels: no physical activity, some physical activity or much physical activity.
The diet and exercise patterns of those who developed Alzheimer's Disease were then compared with those who did not. When the researchers considered only the amounts of exercise a subject engaged in, those who got some physical activity were 29%-41% less likely to develop Alzheimer's than those who were inactive. Those who engaged in the highest level of physical activity were up to 50% less likely to develop Alzheimer's!
What's more interesting is what the researchers discovered when they considered the various combinations of the three levels of activity and the three levels of adherence to the Mediterranean Diet. Those whose diet most closely matched the Mediterranean Diet and who also engaged in the most exercise reduced their risk of Alzheimer's by 77% when compared to those people who were both inactive and had the lowest adherence to the Mediterranean Diet.
Even more interesting is that simply adding a moderate amount of exercise (moderate being 0.1 hours per week of a vigorous exercise, such as running, or 0.8 hours of moderate exercise, such as swimming or hiking, or 1.3 hours of light exercise, such as walking or golfing) still reduced a subject's risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease by 22%.
It seems clear that a healthy diet based on Mediterranean Diet principles in combination with regular exercise can significantly reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease. Use The Dr. Gourmet Diet Plan to create your own healthy, Mediterranean style diet, and use the Exercise Diary to track the amount of exercise you engage in each week. Exercise isn't just for your body – it's for your brain, too.
First posted: January 20, 2010