Consumption of a traditional Mediterranean-type diet – rich in foods such as seafood, fruit, and nuts – is associated with a reduced risk of dementia, reports a study published in BMC Medicine. Individuals with a higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet had up to 23% lower risk for dementia compared with those who had lower adherence to a Mediterranean diet.
Diet may be an important modifiable risk factor for dementia that could be targeted for disease prevention and risk reduction but previous studies exploring the impact of a Mediterranean diet have typically been limited to small sample sizes and low numbers of dementia cases. Oliver Shannon and colleagues analysed data from 60,298 individuals from the UK Biobank who had completed a dietary assessment. The authors scored individuals using two measures for adherence to the Mediterranean diet. During the mean follow-up of 9.1 years there were 882 cases of dementia. The authors also considered each individual’s genetic risk for dementia by estimating their polygenic risk, a measure of all the different genes that are related to risk of dementia.
The authors found that participants with the highest adherence to the Mediterranean diet had a 23% lower risk of developing dementia in comparison with those with the lowest adherence score, equivalent to an absolute risk reduction of 0.55%. There was no significant interaction between the polygenic risk for dementia and adherence to a Mediterranean diet, which the authors suggest may indicate that the association of greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet and a reduced dementia risk remains, irrespective of the individual genetic risk for dementia. This finding was not consistent across all the sensitivity analyses and the authors propose further research is needed to assess the interaction between diet and genetics on dementia risk.
The authors caution that their analysis is limited to individuals who self-reported their ethnic background as white, British or Irish, as genetic data was only available based on European ancestry, and that further research is needed in a range of populations to determine the potential benefit. They conclude that, based on their data, a Mediterranean diet that has a high intake of healthy plant-based foods may be an important intervention to incorporate into future strategies to reduce dementia risk.
T: +44 (0)20 3426 3329
Notes to editor:
1. Research article:
“Mediterranean diet adherence is associated with lower dementia risk, independent of genetic predisposition: findings from the UK Biobank prospective cohort study”
BMC Medicine 2023
The article is available at the journal website.
Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BMC's open access policy.
2. BMC Medicine is the flagship medical journal of the BMC series. An open access, transparent peer-reviewed general medical journal, BMC Medicine publishes outstanding and influential research in all areas of clinical practice, translational medicine, medical and health advances, public health, global health, policy, and general topics of interest to the biomedical and sociomedical professional communities. We also publish stimulating debates and reviews as well as unique forum articles and concise tutorials.
3. A pioneer of open access publishing, BMC has an evolving portfolio of high quality peer-reviewed journals including broad interest titles such as BMC Biology and BMC Medicine, specialist journals such as Malaria Journal and Microbiome, and the BMC series. At BMC, research is always in progress. We are committed to continual innovation to better support the needs of our communities, ensuring the integrity of the research we publish, and championing the benefits of open research. BMC is part of Springer Nature, giving us greater opportunities to help authors connect and advance discoveries across the world.