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Mediterranean diet helps costly, deadly Alzheimer's disease

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Alzheimer's disease, the main form of dementia, is estimated to affect 35.6 million people worldwide  and the care cost for the disease will be US$601 billion or more than 1 percent of the global GDP in 2010, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report, authored by Professor Anders Wimo of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden and Professor Martin Prince at the Institute of Psychiatry of King's College London in the United Kingdom, also says the number of people with dementia is expected to double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050.

The care costs for people with dementia are likely, according to the report by Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI), to rise faster than the prevalenceof the disease, particularly in the developing world.  Right now, the costs are higher in developed countries.

Overall, developed countries spend more money on each individual with dementia, according to the report. Developing countries account of 14 percent of the total cases, but their care costs are less than 1 percent of the total global cost. Middle income countries account for 40 percent of total cases, but their care costs account for 10 percent.

In affluent countries, on the other hand, cases of dementia account for 46 percent of the total, but their care costs account for 89 percent with 70 percent of the global cost occurring in Western Europe and North America.

The Chicago-based Alzheimer’s Association also released a 2010 report saying that the care cost for 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer's disease is $172 billion a year. Thus, the cost for the disease is $32,453 per capita annually.

What can a person do to reduce his risk for Alzheimer's disease?  Can it be prevented? One thing beneficial lifestyle change to incorporate is the Mediterranean diet, which has been found in many studies to be associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's.

Diet and mild cognitive impairment

Scarmeas N and colleagues from Columbia University Medical Center reported in the Feb 2009 issue of Archives of Neurology saying that the Mediterranean diet prevented mild cognitive impairment from progressing into Alzheimer's disease.

The researchers followed 1393 cognitively normal participants during a 4.5-year period and found those with mild cognitive impairment whose diet adhered most closely to the Mediterranean diet were 48 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's.

Additionally, they found participants who stuck with the Mediterranean diet were 28 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment.

Diet and death risk

Scarmeas N. and colleagues at Columbia University in 2007 published a study in the Sept 11 issue of Neurology saying adherence to the Mediterranean diet may affect not only risk for Alzheimer's disease, but the death risk of this disease as well.

In the study, the researchers followed 192 community-based people in New York with diagnosed Alzheimer's every 1.5 years for a period of 4.4 years.

They found those whose diet adhered most closely to the Mediterranean diet were 73 percent less likely to die from Alzheimer's disease.

Foods and Alzheimer's disease

Gu Y. and colleagues at Columbia University reported in June 2010 in the Journal Archives of Neurology that certain food pattern reduced the risk of Alzheimer's disease by 38 percent.

The diet or food pattern Yu et al identified include high amounts of salad dressing, nuts, fish, tomatoes, poultry, cruciferous vegetables, fruits, and dark and green leafy vegetables and low amounts of high-fat diary products, red meat, organ meat and butter.

The researchers found the association after they followed 2148 people aged 65 and older for about 4 years.

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