Until recently, there was little knowledge about the potential causes of and risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. This lack of knowledge made it difficult for aging Americans to make informed decisions about lifestyle changes that could help their cognitive health. Now, researchers have shown that people who follow a Mediterranean diet are at a significantly reduced risk of developing dementia than those who follow a standard diet.

What Is a Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean diet isn’t technically just one way of eating. Instead, it refers to the more general eating habits of people living in countries like Italy, Greece, Spain, Morocco, and Lebanon, all of which border the Mediterranean Sea. This may seem a long way from the context of Community living for seniors, but today’s best nutritionists and chefs are paying attention.

While there’s no one particular way to follow a Mediterranean diet, the overall trend is to eat mostly plant-based foods and healthy fats like those found in salmon, sardines, nuts, avocados, and virgin olive oil. People following this unique diet are encouraged to eat all types of fruits and vegetables and to avoid red meat, incorporating it into their meals no more than a few times a month.

The Research Shows It Works

Some people have a hard time believing that the food they choose to eat can have such a significant impact on their cognitive health. However, the nutritionists at today’s top assisted living homes are paying close attention to the research, and it shows that the Mediterranean diet works.

The study most frequently referenced in support of the Mediterranean diet was published in BMC Medicine, a prestigious academic journal. The study followed over 60,000 Europeans eating different diets and found that over time, those who followed a Mediterranean diet closely had a 23% lower risk of developing dementia than those who did not. The researchers even found that this correlation applied to study participants who had a genetic predisposition for dementia.

Why It Might Work?

There is no direct evidence of why the Mediterranean diet helps to reduce the risk of developing dementia. However, some experts believe that the high levels of antioxidants found in the many fruits and vegetables typically consumed on this diet are the primary driving factor. These plant-based substances may help to protect the brain, reduce inflammation, and lower levels of cholesterol. All of these factors could, in turn, help to keep Alzheimer’s disease at bay and reduce the burden of cognitive decline.

The Mediterranean diet also helps to promote a healthier lifestyle. By focusing on plant-based foods, people naturally avoid unhealthy processed foods, excess sugar, and other substances that could contribute to health problems. All of these reasons are part of why a lot of people suggest looking for senior living options that focus on serving nutritious meals.

Other Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet for Seniors

The Mediterranean diet’s ability to reduce dementia risk isn’t the only thing that makes it an excellent option for people aging in place at home or in senior living in Walnut Creek, CA. The diet also has many other health benefits. Additional research has shown that it may also reduce the risk of diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes. Some people also find that following the diet helps to alleviate symptoms of inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and even boosts mood in depression.

Stick With It

People who follow the Mediterranean diet usually have few problems sticking with it since there are no foods that are explicitly prohibited. Although it takes some time to get used to eliminating some typical American desserts, snacks, and meals, most people don’t go back to their unhealthy eating habits after giving the diet a try. 

Those already following the Mediterranean diet or some variation on it at home may want to look for respite care communities that hold the same dietary values. Unfortunately, as with any positive lifestyle change, the benefits of the Mediterranean diet won’t last forever if people don’t stick with it, and dementia risk can go back up if seniors return to eating processed meals, red meat, sugar, and other unhealthy foods.

Eat and Live Well at Tiffany Court

Following a Mediterranean diet can be tough for seniors living alone. Why not consider a move to Tiffany Court of Walnut Creek? We provide a range of restaurant-style meals that are both nutritious and delicious, making it easy to stick to a doctor-recommended diet. Tiffany Court is open for tours, so call (925) 933-5555 to schedule one today.