Diet is a Major Predictor of Future Cognitive Impairment

As the older adult population continues to grow worldwide, age-related health issues will further increase the high clinical, economic, and social challenges of caring for the elderly.  Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are two cognitive health problems that are increasing in prevalence among older adults.  Currently, no cure for dementia exists, and available treatment options provide primarily symptomatic reliefs. Therefore, finding ways to prevent or delay the development of dementia through implementing lifestyle changes, such as diet, is critical.

It is well known that the Mediterranean diet is related to a decreased risk for a large variety of age-related health issues such as stroke, cardiovascular illnesses, type 2 diabetes, and all-cause mortality.  Traditionally, the Mediterranean diet is a multinutrient diet that constitutes a high consumption of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes and a low intake of saturated fats with the primary source of fat being olive oil; moderate intake of fish; moderate to low intake of dairy products (primarily yogurt and cheese); low intake of red meat and meat products; and moderate consumption of alcohol (particularly wine) mainly consumed during meals. Recent research has shown that a Mediterranean-style diet is associated with a lower risk of dementia. Furthermore, studies have found that sticking this diet could result in a slower cognitive decline and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  These findings support the suggestion that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet could delay or stop the onset of dementia.

A recent scientific review identified 12 studies that reported an association between following a Mediterranean diet and cognitive function or dementia.  The review found that adopting the Mediterranean diet could lower the rates of cognitive decline.  Moreover, the review also found that there was a significant relationship between higher adherence to the diet and decreased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, especially for adults ages 75 and older.

In regards to the underlying mechanisms that could explain why the Mediterranean diet is so effective, the diet is thought to enhance multiple biological mechanisms.  Researchers have observed lower rates of coronary artery disease, hypertension, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, and these conditions have also been related to mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. Greater adherence could also promote metabolic control due to its association with improved insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.  Moreover, age-related increases in oxidative stress leads to oxidative damage—a problem often seen in the brain of Alzheimer’s disease patients.  The primary components of the Mediterranean diet are full of antioxidants such as vitamins E and C, carotenoids, and flavonoids.  The observed decrease in oxidative stress in people following the Mediterranean-type diet could contribute to their lowered risk for dementia.

Older adults, especially those living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, are highly vulnerable to illnesses and diseases that could not only diminish their quality of life, but also increase their rate of mortality.  It is pertinent that these elderly residents are provided the best quality of care, which includes an appropriate diet that is healthy and nutritious.  If you or a loved one has experienced neglect or abuse in a long-term care facility, such as one in Irwindale or La Canada Flintridge, California, please contact the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi today.  Our team of elder law experts and attorneys are passionate about protecting the rights of the elderly and will pursue your case with vigor.