This “dietary pattern” consists of higher consumption of salad dressing, nuts, fish, tomatoes, poultry and certain vegetables and fruits, and lower consumption of high-fat dairy products, red meat, organ meat and butter. This finding is in line with a previous study of the Mediterranean diet by the same researchers, and similar to recommendations for heart health.
Over the four year study period, participants whose diet most resembled this pattern were 38 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s (or Alzheimer’s and stroke) than those whose diet least resembled the pattern.
The study does not prove that this dietary pattern was directly responsible for the reduced risk, and there are reasons to be cautious about this research:
- Participants may not accurately report what they eat
- Participants’ diets may have changed over time, but their diets earlier in life might still have affected risk
- Another related factor may be responsible for reduced risk – for example, people who eat this way might also tend to exercise a lot [in this study, researchers tried to address the question of exercise by adjusting results based on calories eaten and body mass index]
- Findings from similar population studies have not been supported by clinical trials – for example, population studies showed that people who take NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) seemed to have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s, but so far this has not been shown to be true in clinical trials.