Diet and Alzheimer's disease risk factors or prevention: the current evidence.
Expert Rev Neurother. 2011 May ;11(5):677-708. PMID: 21539488
Department of Geriatrics, Center for Aging Brain, Memory Unit, University of Bari, Bari, Italy.
Preventing or postponing the onset of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and delaying or slowing its progression would lead to a consequent improvement of health status and quality of life in older age. Elevated saturated fatty acids could have negative effects on age-related cognitive decline and mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Furthermore, at present, epidemiological evidence suggests a possible association between fish consumption, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA; in particular, n-3 PUFA) and a reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Poorer cognitive function and an increased risk of vascular dementia (VaD) were found to be associated with a lower consumption of milk or dairy products. However, the consumption of whole-fat dairy products may be associated with cognitive decline in the elderly. Light-to-moderate alcohol use may be associated with a reduced risk of incident dementia and AD, while for VaD, cognitive decline and predementia syndromes, the current evidence is only suggestive of a protective effect. The limited epidemiological evidence available on fruit and vegetable consumption and cognition generally supports a protective role of these macronutrients against cognitive decline, dementia and AD. Only recently, higher adherence to a Mediterranean-type diet was associated with decreased cognitive decline, although the Mediterranean diet (MeDi) combines several foods, micro- and macro-nutrients already separately proposed as potential protective factors against dementia and predementia syndromes. In fact, recent prospective studies provided evidence that higher adherence to a Mediterranean-type diet could be associated with slower cognitive decline, reduced risk of progression from MCI to AD, reduced risk of AD and a decreased all-cause mortality in AD patients. These findings suggested that adherence to the MeDi may affect not only the risk of AD, but also of predementia syndromes and their progression to overt dementia. Based on the current evidence concerning these factors, no definitive dietary recommendations are possible. However, following dietary advice for lowering the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders, high levels of consumption of fats from fish, vegetable oils, nonstarchy vegetables, low glycemic index fruits and a diet low in foods with added sugars and with moderate wine intake should be encouraged. Hopefully this will open new opportunities for the prevention and management of dementia and AD.