Diet plays a critical role in disease prevention. Often times we hear about “super foods” or individual foods that are packed with vitamins, minerals or antioxidants and are known for their health-promoting and disease-fighting properties. Since foods are typically consumed in combinations rather than individually, it’s important to consider the synergistic effect they may have, and how they may work together to prevent disease.
A study recently published in the Archives of Neurology examined the relationship between the combination of foods people eat, specific nutrients, and the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Two thousand one hundred and forty eight elderly individuals 65 and up with no history of dementia participated. Individuals were evaluated every 1.5 years for 4 years for neurological and neuropsychological markers as well as dietary intake (1). Based on food frequency questionnaires, foods were placed into 30 pre-determined food groups, and dietary patterns were established based on their ability to explain variation in seven nutrients related to dementia risk (saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin B12, and folate). At the study’s end, 253 cases of Alzheimer’s disease were identified. With regards to specific nutrients, individuals who had a diet rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin E and folate and those with low intakes of saturated fatty acids and vitamin B12 had the lowest risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A dietary pattern very similar to that of the Mediterranean diet consisting of salad dressing, nuts, fish, tomatoes, poultry, cruciferous vegetables, fruits, dark and green leafy vegetables; and low in high-fat dairy, red meat, organ meat, and butter showed the lowest risk of disease (1). This is just one more study to support the benefits of a Mediterranean-like diet and the implications for the role diet plays in disease prevention.
- Gu Y, Nieves JW, Stern Y, Luchsinger JA, Scarmeas N. Food Combination and Alzheimer Disease Risk: A Protective Diet. Arch Neurol. 2010 Apr 12.