Newswise — BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) study suggests that the Mediterranean diet, which urges consuming foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, chicken and salad dressing, and avoiding saturated fats, meat and dairy foods, may be linked to preserving memory and thinking abilities. However, the same association was not found in people with diabetes. The research is published in the April 30, 2013, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
“Since there are no definitive treatments for most dementing illnesses, modifiable activities, such as diet, that may delay the onset of symptoms of dementia, are very important,” said Georgios Tsivgoulis, M.D., a neurologist with UAB and the University of Athens, Greece.
Data came from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, housed at UAB. REGARDS enrolled 30,239 people ages 45 and older between January 2003 and October 2007, and it continues to follow them for health changes.
In this study, the largest yet done on the Mediterranean diet, dietary information from 17,478 African-Americans and Caucasians, average age of 64, was reviewed to see how closely they adhered to a Mediterranean diet. Study subjects also underwent tests that measured memory and thinking abilities over an average of four years. A total of 17 percent of the participants had diabetes.
The study found that in healthy people, those who more closely followed the Mediterranean diet were 19 percent less likely to develop problems with their thinking and memory skills. There was not a significant difference in declines between African-Americans and Caucasians. However, the Mediterranean diet was not associated with a lower risk of thinking and memory problems in people with diabetes.
“Diet is an important modifiable activity that could help in preserving cognitive functioning in late life,” said Tsivgoulis. “However, it is only one of several important lifestyle activities that might play a role in late-life mental functioning. Exercise, avoiding obesity, not smoking cigarettes and taking medications for conditions like diabetes and hypertension are also important.”
The study was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, one of the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Health and Human Services.
About UABKnown for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center and the state of Alabama’s largest employer with some 23,000 employees and an economic impact exceeding $5 billion annually on the state. The five pillars of UAB’s mission deliver knowledge that will change your world: the education of students, who are exposed to multidisciplinary learning and a new world of diversity; research, the creation of new knowledge; patient care, the outcome of ‘bench-to-bedside’ translational knowledge; service to the community at home and around the globe, from free clinics in local neighborhoods to the transformational experience of the arts; and the economic development of Birmingham and Alabama. Learn more at www.uab.edu.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is a separate, independent institution from the University of Alabama, which is located in Tuscaloosa. Please use University of Alabama at Birmingham on first reference and UAB on second reference.
MEDIA CONTACTRegister for reporter access to contact details