The Mediterranean Diet Could Protect You From Alzheimer's. Here's How

The Mediterranean diet is popular because it boasts a variety of health benefits. Eating a diet rich in unsaturated fats, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fish while low in red meat and dairy products may help prevent certain conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and stroke. Additionally, the Mediterranean diet is linked to lower cholesterol levels (via Mayo Clinic). Now, new research suggests that it could also protect you from Alzheimer's disease.

Research from a study published in May 2021 in Neurology, the medical journal from the American Academy of Neurology, showed how foods from a Mediterranean-style diet helped reduce the risk of Alzheimer's by protecting the brain from the buildup of two types of abnormal proteins. The accumulation of amyloid proteins causes clumps that form plaque, which can disrupt normal cell function. Tau proteins cause a condition called tangling, in which they bond to each other inside neurons, blocking how cells communicate (via the National Institutes of Health).

The Mediterranean diet includes foods that support brain health

Experts reported that foods in the Mediterranean diet may help protect the brain from the buildup of these harmful proteins.

Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, R.D.N., explained that foods in the Mediterranean diet contain healthy brain nutrients. "Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, polyphenols, specific minerals, and protein consumed sustainably through this dietary pattern are a boost to brain health and may contribute to reduction of the risk of several chronic diseases," she told Healthline.

Moreover, the diet may actually help prevent the buildup of the problematic proteins that lead to dementia and memory loss. Tommaso Ballarini, Ph.D., of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, told EurekAlert! the results of the study "add to the body of evidence that show what you eat may influence your memory skills later on."

Researchers studied 512 people of which 343 were considered high risk for developing Alzheimer's. They examined different functions including language and memory as well as how closely the participants followed the diet. Their observations found that patients who did not follow the diet scored lower when it came to memory tests. Other results showed that those who did not follow the diet closely had higher levels of amyloid and tau biomarkers (via EurekAlert!), as well. 

Interested in incorporating Mediterranean diet principles into your life? We say go for it, just make sure you're cleared by your doctor before you make any drastic changes.