win. Hamburgers. Sausages. Store-bought pastries, cakes and cookies. And soda – sugar or diet.
They’re all bad, and they increase our risk of dementia – a lot.
This is what one of the biggest and scariest studies of all time says, which involved around 60,000 people in their 40s, 50s and 60s. The study, which involved a large number of people in a long-running British health study known as the UK Biobank, tracked what people typically ate and who ended up with dementia.
Subjects who ranked in the bottom third of the diet were 30% more likely to develop dementia within nine years than those in the top third.
Technically, the study looked at the effects of the so-called “Mediterranean diet,” which is usually depicted in the media as a TV movie version of an Italian family dinner: fresh fish, vegetables and fruits, nuts and olive oil—and wine. .
But the way the study worked, the researchers measured two things: how often the participants ate these “Mediterranean” type foods, but also how often they ate… well, what we see around us, especially in the United States. Mediterranean foods.
For example, one of the key questionnaires used in the study was the so-called The Mediterranean Diet Adherence Screener, which has become a standard tool for researchers in the field. (Yet another study recently confirmed its validity.)
This screening program is a simple questionnaire. You can get it here, and printing it out and sticking it on the fridge could be the simplest family health hack anyone can do.
There are 14 questions: you get a point for each one you can check at the end of the week.
Do you cook with olive oil instead of butter? Give yourself a point.
Do you use more than 4 tablespoons of olive oil a day? Give yourself another point.
Do you eat more than 400g of fresh vegetables a day or more than three fruits? Give yourself a point for each.
You also get points if you eat enough fish, nuts, legumes and the famous Italian red sauce with onions and garlic. (No mention of basil, unfortunately.)
So these are “good” foods.
(You also get a point if you drink “more than 7 cups of wine” per week. Cheers!)
But… you also get points for avoiding bad foods: Namely the things mentioned above, like crackers, red meat and soft drinks.
The latest study was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal BMC Medicine.
Several previous studies have found a correlation between age-adjusted cognitive decline and a lower risk of dementia in those who follow a healthy Mediterranean diet. While no diet is perfect, the Mediterranean diet comes out as a winner or a winner in study after study. The Cleveland Clinic reports that this diet reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer and many other diseases and helps us live longer.
Meanwhile, the Alzheimer’s Society reports that about 2 percent of Americans between the ages of 65 and 69 have dementia, and the rate roughly doubles every five years. About a third of people over 90 have dementia, it reports.