August 12/London/The Mirror -- The risk of Alzheimer's falls sharply with a Mediterranean diet, a study has shown, and a little exercise makes the odds even better. A diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruit, fish, cereals and monounsaturated fats such as olive oil can slash the risk of developing Alzheimer's by 40%.
Furthermore, medics say that can be boosted to as much as 60% if it is combined with regular exercise.
Researchers questioned 1,800 elderly people, average age 77, about their lifestyles. For the following five-and-a-half years they kept a check on their health to see who developed Alzheimer's.
The ones who were most active physically were 33% less likely to get it. Those who strongly favored a more Mediterranean-type diet had a 40% risk reduction.
Subjects who ate Med-style and exercised improved their chances by up to 60%, the Columbia University project found.
The research was the first into Alzheimer's to look at diet and exercise together.
Associate professor of clinical neurology Dr. Nikos Scarmeas, lead author of the study, said, "It shows people may be able to alter their risk of developing Alzheimer's by modifying their lifestyles."
Dr. Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said, "This study adds weight to the growing body of evidence that suggests a healthy diet and regular exercise can reduce chances of developing dementia.
"A Mediterranean diet full of green leafy vegetables, oily fish, nuts and low in saturated fats is an incredibly healthy approach to eating.
"Other studies have shown it can reduce your risk of developing dementia by as much as 40%.
"Exercise has been found to cut chances of developing dementia by a third."
From the August 17, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition