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Your diet can prevent Alzheimer’s

Rating

3 Star

Your diet can prevent Alzheimer’s

Our Review Summary

The story presents a study of Mediterranean diets and their possible protective effect on cognitive decline associated with age. The story mentions that researchers have known since the 1960s that this diet may have a positive influence on health. Recent research not mentioned in this news story suggests that inflammation and vascular changes caused by uncontrolled blood sugar and high blood pressure may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet (with the addition of exercise) may help prevent this inflammatory process.

The story does provide some quantitative data in the form of relative risk reduction from following the Mediterranean diet, but there is not much context. We are not told how many people were involved in the study, their ages or other characteristics of the group. The story mentions only a one-year follow-up, but the study participants were followed for four years. What is also not mentioned is that Alzheimer’s disease may have a large genetic component, so even strictly following the Mediterranean diet may not prevent the disease in those at increased hereditary risk.

The story claims that there is “no harm in doing the Mediterranean diet”. However, people still need to maintain appropriate caloric intake, regardless of the type of diet. Excess calories, even from healthy food, can cause weight gain. What is not discussed in the news story, but is mentioned in the source article is that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with lower caloric intake. Also, the addition of daily moderate consumption of wine may be problematic for those who cannot drink alcohol. One to two alcoholic drinks per day have been shown to slightly increase the risk of breast cancer in women.

The story presents some possible evidence of a protective benefit of the Mediterranean diet for Alzheimer’s disease, but discussion of the study design is incomplete. The story does acknowledge that an intervention trial vs. retrospective study is necessary to more definitively provide a link between the Mediterranean diet and prevention of disease, especially Alzheimer’s.

Fresh foods recommended as part of the Mediterranean diet may not be readily available to poorer people living in urban areas. These people are at even greater risk of developing health problems from a less healthy, traditional American diet. This is not addressed in the news story. On this note, including input from a medical expert or registered dietitian could provide medical consumers, especially those of a lower socioeconomic class, advice on substituting more foods from the Mediterranean diet in place of high-fat, highly processed foods typical of the American diet.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story advocates a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, fish and moderate consumption of wine. Fresh foods may cost more than pre-packaged fast food and may not be readily available to poorer people living in urban areas. These people are at even greater risk of developing health problems from a traditional American diet of processed, high-fat foods. This is not addressed in the news story.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story does provide some quantitative data in the form of relative risk reduction from following the Mediterranean diet, but there is not much context. We are not told how many people were involved in the study, their ages or other characteristics of the group. The story mentions only a one-year follow-up, but the study participants were followed for four years. What is also not mentioned is that Alzheimer’s disease may have a large genetic component, so even strictly following the Mediterranean diet may not prevent the disease in those at increased hereditary risk.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story claims that there is “no harm in doing the Mediterranean diet”. However, people still need to maintain appropriate caloric consumption, regardless of the type of diet. Excess calories, even from healthy food, can cause weight gain. What is not discussed in the news story, but is mentioned in the source article is that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with lower caloric intake. Also, the addition of daily moderate consumption of wine may be problematic for those who cannot drink alcohol. One to two alcoholic drinks per day has been shown to slightly increase the risk of breast cancer in women.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Satisfactory

The story presents some possible evidence of a protective benefit of the Mediterranean diet, but discussion of the study design is incomplete. The story does acknowledge that an intervention trial vs. retrospective study is necessary to improve the evidence for a link between the Mediterranean diet and prevention of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease in old age.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not appear to engage in disease mongering and mentions that the study does not provide definitive data for a nutritional means of preventing Alzheimer’s.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

The story has a medical editor reporting on the latest study of the Mediterranean diet. It is difficult to tell what sources of information were used. Citing other medical experts would have been very helpful to put the results of this study in perspective and give the public advice on how to adopt aspects of this diet in place of a high-fat, highly processed foods typical of the American diet.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story is not advocating a treatment, per se, but a change in diet aimed at prevention of disease. Other prevention options for those at risk for Alzheimer’s were not discussed.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

It’s clear from the story that foods that comprise the Mediterranean diet are available to many people.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story presents this study of Mediterranean diets as having a protective effect on cognitive decline associated with age. The story mentions that researchers have known since the 1960s that this diet may have a positive influence on health. Recent research not mentioned in this news story suggests that inflammation and vascular changes caused by uncontrolled blood sugar and high blood pressure may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Adherence to this diet (with the addition of exercise) may help prevent this inflammatory process.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

The story is based on a study appearing in the Journal of American Medical Association – for which there was a press release – but there is additional reporting and a caveat that further randomized controlled intervention studies are needed to more clearly define a link between diet and Alzheimer’s.

Total Score: 5 of 10 Satisfactory

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