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a med diet imageMarch 5 2018

There is no evidence to show any specific nutrient or food supplement affects the risk of cognitive impairment or dementia, a new report has concluded. 

However, while the evidence base is very small, there is “some observational evidence that greater adherence to a Mediterranean dietary pattern may be associated with reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia.”

The advice comes from the governmental advisory body the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN). It has published a statement on diet, cognitive impairment and dementia having conducted a review of the current research literature.

It found that “there was insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions on the association between individual nutrients (B vitamins, vitamins C and E and omega-3 fatty acids) and risk of cognitive decline or cognitive impairment.” In addition, “there was insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions on the association between polyphenols (including flavonoids) and cognition.”

It also said there was limited evidence around caffeine, but what there is indicates there is no link between caffeine intake and cognition.

Evidence around the potential of a Mediterranean dietary pattern was mainly observational, rather than randomised controlled trials, said SACN. It would like to see more evidence on whether any protective effect of the Mediterranean diet is due to the overall range of foods within it, or due to specific dietary components.

“There was no evidence of protective effects for any of the individual nutrients thought to account for the health benefits of Mediterranean dietary patterns,” it said. “While there is no single Mediterranean diet, such diets tend to include higher intakes of vegetables, fruit, legumes, cereals, fish and monounsaturated fatty acids; lower intakes of saturated fat, dairy products and meat; and a moderate alcohol intake.

“Mediterranean type diets broadly align with current UK healthy eating recommendations as depicted in the Eatwell Guide.” This was published by Public Health England in 2016.

Commenting on the report, Dr Doug Brown, Chief Policy and Research Officer at from Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Dementia is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer, and with no way yet to cure the condition, prevention is key.

“There’s no evidence that eating a certain food or taking a specific vitamin or supplement can affect the risk of dementia, but we do know that people who eat a Mediterranean style diet tend to have a lower risk of dementia.

“We’re still waiting for proof from big trials to show whether changing your diet can reduce the risk of dementia, and by how much. But eating a healthy, balanced diet can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke, so it’s likely eating healthily is a good way to look after the health of your brain too.”

Links:
SACN statement          
Alzheimer’s Society statement

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