Butter. Burgers. Sausages. Store-bought pastries, cakes and cookies. Oh, and sodas, sweet or diet.
They’re all bad, and they all increase our risk of dementia – by a lot.
So reports one of the largest and most chilling studies ever, involving around 60,000 people in their 40s, 50s and 60s. The study, involving massive numbers of people in a long-running UK health survey known as the UK Biobank, tracked what people typically ate and who ended up with dementia.
Subjects who scored in the bottom third of the diet program were 30% more likely to develop dementia within nine years than those of the upper third.
Technically, the study looked at the effects of the so-called “Mediterranean diet,” which is typically portrayed in the media as a TV version of an Italian family dinner: fresh fish, vegetables and fruit, 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, the things we see all around us, especially in the United States. Not Mediterranean food.
For example, one of the main questionnaires used in the study was the so-called “Mediterranean Diet Adherence Screener”, which has become a standard tool for researchers in this field. (Yet another study recently confirmed its validity.)
This filter is a simple questionnaire. You can get it here, and printing it out and sticking it on the fridge may be the easiest family health hack anyone can do.
There are 14 questions: You get one point for each that you can check off at the end of the week.
Do you cook with olive oil instead of butter? Give yourself a point.
Do you consume more than 4 tablespoons of olive oil per day? Give yourself another point.
Do you eat more than 400 g of fresh vegetables per day or more than three fruits? Give yourself a point for each.
You also get points if you reach the goals by eating enough fish, nuts, legumes and dishes with the famous Italian red sauce, with onions and garlic. (No mention of basil, alas.)
These are the “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 cookies, red meat, and soda.
The latest study was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal BMC Medicine.
Several previous studies have found a correlation between those who follow a healthy Mediterranean diet, lower rates of cognitive decline with age and a lower risk of dementia. Although no diet is perfect, the Mediterranean diet has come out on top, or winner, in study after study. The Cleveland Clinic reports that this diet lowers our risk of heart disease, cancer, and many other ailments, and helps us live longer.
Meanwhile, the Alzheimer Society reports that about 2% of Americans between the ages of 65 and 69 have dementia, with the rate then doubling roughly every five years. About a third of people over 90 have dementia, he reports.