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The dementia diet: Mediterranean meals

<p>You are what you eat, so stay healthy and lucid with a fresh evidence-backed approach to cuisine. [Source: Shutterstock]</p>

You are what you eat, so stay healthy and lucid with a fresh evidence-backed approach to cuisine. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • Eating a Mediterranean diet may be healthier than once thought, according to research published in the BMC Medicine Journal
  • People with genetic predispositions were also more likely to have a reduced risk of developing dementia, by up to 23 percent
  • A Mediterranean diet is comprised of fresh ingredients, such as green leafy salads, legumes, vegetables and lower red meat consumption


Researchers sought to study the impact of a person’s diet on their associated risk of developing dementia. The United Kingdom-based study followed the [incident all-cause] dementia risk for 60,298 participants from UK Biobank, across an average of 9.1 years.

The research authors were able to assess the rate of risk reduction using two metrics for modifiable factors in lifestyle which correspond to dementia — the ‘Mediterranean Diet Adherence Screener’ [MEDAS] and ‘Mediterranean diet Pyramid’ [PYRAMID].

The study found that people who adopted and adhered to the Mediterranean diet were 23 percent less likely to develop dementia, independent of genetic and hereditary predisposing factors.

Dementia Australia outlined a range of dietary factors found to influence the risk of developing dementia:

  • Lower intake of saturated and trans-unsaturated fats
  • Higher intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
  • Higher intake of omega-3 fats
  • Higher intake of some antioxidants and vitamins
  • Higher intake of vegetables and fruits
  • Moderate consumption of alcohol — with caution; too much alcohol poses a significant health risk

People who stick to the Mediterranean diet — which facilitates the modifiable dietary guidelines [above] provided by Dementia Australia — were also less likely to suffer complications such as heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

Additionally, excess alcohol consumption can lead to significant cognitive, mental and physical complications or directly lead to alcohol-induced dementia. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is also a considerable and potential liability for those with alcohol dependency, which often mirrors the symptoms of dementia, despite being a comorbid series of nutritional and cognitive causes.

Wernicke’s encephalopathy affects eye movement and vision, balance and coordination; people who may suspect symptoms of the condition in their lives/the lives of those around them, who are known to drink, should seek urgent medical intervention.

Symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy include:

  • Rigidity, erratic eye movements and sporadic paralysis
  • Confusion
  • Balance and impaired mobility

Treatment of Wernicke’s encephalopathy generally involves high doses of thiamine, due to a deficiency caused by alcohol use and the way a person is able to process nutrients. If left untreated, a person may experience the subsequent onset of Korsakoff’s syndrome. In rare instances, Korsakoff syndrome may develop independently and without the preceding symptoms of Wenicke’s encephalopathy.

Symptoms of Korsakoff syndrome may include:

  • Inability to form new memories or learn new information
  • Personality changes
  • Making up stories to fill gaps in memory — confabulation
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there — hallucinations
  • Lack of insight into the condition

The National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia has advised both men and women to limit their alcohol intake to two standard drinks per day.

For more information about the dangers of alcohol misuse or support for alcohol dependance, please visit the Government directory for a range of contact information and guidance.

Alcoholics Anonymous — 1300 222 222
Beyond Blue — 1300 22 4636

Dementia Support Australia — 1800 699 799

Mental Health Emergency — 13 14 65

Lifeline — 13 11 14

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