While the Mediterranean diet has long been credited as one of the best (and healthiest) eating plans for weight loss, researchers are now saying they’re confident the diet, combined with daily exercise, can stave off dementia.
The research project has been titled the MedWalk Trial and will run for two years. In a statement on the news, the University of South Australia shared that the “$1.8 million NHMRC-funded study will recruit 364 older Australians – aged 60-90 years, living independently in a residential village, and without cognitive impairment – across 28 residential sites in South Australia and Victoria”.
Researchers believe that the combination of the Mediterranean diet with daily activities could achieve significant benefits for overall health in these subjects, including brain health.
Subjects will randomly be assigned to the MedWalk plan while the control group will continue to follow their usual lifestyle choices, and after 24 months results will be compared.
On the program, Lead UniSA researcher, Associate Professor Karen Murphy said:
“Dementia is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, behaviour and ability to perform everyday tasks. While it is more common in older Australians, it’s not a normal part of ageing.
“In Australia, around 472,000 people are living with dementia. Each year it costs the economy more than $14 billion which is expected to balloon to more than $1 trillion over the next 40 years.
“While there is currently no prevention or cure for dementia, there is growing consensus that a focus on risk reduction can have positive outcomes. That’s where our study comes in.
“Early pilots of our MedWalk intervention show improved memory and thinking in a sub-group of older participants adhering to a combination of Mediterranean diet and daily walking for six months.
“We’re now extending this study across a broader group of older Australians, using carefully-designed behavioural change and maintenance strategies in the hope of substantially reducing the incidence of dementia across Australia.”
What’s the Mediterranean diet?
Unlike many other fad diets that circulate the internet regularly, the Mediterranean diet isn’t one that comes with impossibly strict ‘rules’.
Instead, it runs off a more general guide. The eating plan is based off consuming a solid amount of plant-based foods like seasonal fruit and vegetables, whole grains and legumes. This is often paired with moderate amounts of dairy, poultry and fish and limited amounts of red meat and alcohol.
The diet also heroes fresh food and healthy fats, so processed foods are set aside for the most part.
There have been other studies into this diet indicating that it is beneficial for heart health and increasing your lifespan. Guess we’ll have to wait and see what the findings say about brain health, but for now, it still seems like a pretty solid dietary option regardless.
If you’re interested in reading more about what you can do to reduce the risk of dementia while you’re still young.