A large-scale study has found that adopting a Mediterranean diet may not reduce your risk of developing dementia, contradicting previous thinking.

Researchers examined the impact of two diets over a 20-year period and reported that they did not find a link between either a conventional diet or a Mediterranean diet and a lesser risk of dementia.

Study author Dr Isabelle Glans, of Lund University in Sweden, said: “Previous studies on the effects of diet on dementia risk have had mixed results.

“While our study does not rule out a possible association between diet and dementia, we did not find a link in our study, which had a long follow-up period, included younger participants than some other studies and did not require people to remember what foods they had eaten regularly years before.”

Dr Glans said more research is needed to confirm the study findings.

The team examined data from 28,000 people in Sweden. Participants had an average age of 58, did not have dementia at the beginning of the study, and completed a weekly food diary and an interview.

At the end of the study period, 6.9% of participants were diagnosed with dementia.

Dr Nils Peters, from the University of Basel in Switzerland, wrote an editorial to accompany the study, saying: “Diet on its own may not have a strong enough effect on memory and thinking, but is likely one factor among others that influence the course of cognitive function. Dietary strategies will still potentially be needed along with other measures to control risk factors.”

A Mediterranean diet is typically made up of lots of vegetables, legumes, fruits, fish and olive oil, and fewer dairy products, meats and saturated fatty acids.

The study can be read in the journal Neurology.

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