Defend Against Dementia – The Mediterranean Diet

A Mediterrenean Diet helps fight against dementia

Which do you fear the most – death, cancer or dementia?

Almost 10 years ago, the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK asked 2,000 people that question.

      • Dementia came top of the list for 31%
      • Cancer was 2nd in 27%
      • Death was 3rd at 18%

52% also said that they feared that their parents would suffer some dementia illness.

Since then, we have grown even more aware of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Most of us know of somebody, or someone’s parent or relation, who suffered from it or is confined to a home or in hospital

What exactly is dementia and is it the same as Alzheimer’s?

Anything that causes brain cells to die can lead to reduced brain function and the symptoms we associate with dementia. It can be a stroke, lack of oxygen to the brain or certain diseases.

Reduced brain function that results in memory problems or difficulty with perception, language, thinking and basic problem solving is what we call dementia.

There is no actual disease called dementia. It’s the term used for that group of symptoms,

Alzheimer’s is a specific disease that causes dementia – it’s the most common cause.

Read more about the differences between them on the Alzheimer’s Society website.

Dementia is a really big problem – and it’s growing

It’s a huge issue. There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK. That’s close to a million of us and it’s expected to reach that number by 2021.

It’s also going to cost the country £30 billion then, to put financial numbers around it.

The amazing story of how one sufferer recovered from dementia

At 82, Sylvia Hatzer had been becoming more forgetful for about three years. It came to the point where she didn’t recognise her own son, Mark.

Mark and she decided to switch to foods contained in the Mediterranean Diet in addition to her medication. Gradually her condition improved and she recovered her memory.

You can read Mark’s account on the Alzheimer’s Society website and the Daily Mirror story.

What’s the secret of the Mediterranean Diet?

Fruit, veg, cereals and olive oil seem to be the simple but key ingredients. That means low fat, moderate meat consumption and plenty of natural plant goodness.

Compare that with our meat and two veg UK diet, stodgy pies, fry-ups, and fish & chips. Lots of grease and fats that tend to clog arteries. We are not noted for eating lots of fruit or veg.

Sometime in the 1960s, researchers noticed that men in the Mediterranean countries suffered significantly lower heart disease and dementia. Investigation showed that they consumed the age-old diet of that region which has:

    • Lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes (plants with pods that split open along a seam, like peas) and cereals.
    • Not too much dairy and oily fish
    • Very little sugar, red meat and saturated fat

The British Heart Foundation has a good explanation of why fats are so important for a healthy diet. It also explains which of them are good and which we should avoid, and what foods contain each type.

Olive oil is very good for you

Olive oil has been known for its marvellous health benefits for thousands of years. Anecdotal evidence down the ages is now being investigated scientifically and many benefits are proven.

This includes anti-ageing and heart health. Now it’s being linked with better memory function too.

Note that this is what we call Extra Virgin Olive Oil. That’s the first cold pressing of good olives to extract their natural juices. Nothing is added or taken away, and the temperature is kept low so as not to damage any of the health-giving compounds.

Olive oil brands that have “pure” or “light” on the label are to be avoided. They are heavily refined in an industrial process, which strips out all of the natural compounds.

That’s done because about half of all olive oil is simply not good enough and has to be treated with heat and chemicals to make it palatable.

Good for memory – Walnuts, Blueberries, Kale, Spinach, Broccoli, Green Tea

The Alzheimers Society promotes the Mediterranean Diet containing lots of these. Diet is important but good health and reducing the risk of dementia includes:

  • A positive lifestyle that includes:
    • A diet rich in eating certain foods
    • Regular exercise
    • Not smoking
    • Keeping blood pressure and cholesterol to normal levels
    • Using your brain more with cognitive exercise like Sudoku, crosswords and jigsaw puzzles
    • Keeping up or increasing social contact with others

If it were as easy as just taking a pill, everybody would do it!



Alzheimer’s Society (Jul 2018). What is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? Retrieved from

Alzheimer’s Society (2018). Mediterranean diet and dementia. Retrieved from

British Heart Foundation. Fats explained. Retrieved from

Hatzer, M. (Mar 2018). Mark’s story: ‘We were living a nightmare we couldn’t wake up from.’ Alzheimer’s Society. Retrieved from

Leech, J. MS RD (Sep 2018). 11 Proven Benefits of Olive Oil. Healthline. Retrieved from

Roberts, M. (Dec 2014). Mediterranean diet keeps people ‘genetically young’. BBC. Retrieved from

Roberts, M. (May 2014). Olive oil and salad combined ‘explain’ Med diet success. BBC. Retrieved from

Scarpens, A. (Apr 2018). Mum, 82, who couldn’t recognise her own son due to dementia gets memory back – after changing her diet. Daily Mirror. Retrieved from

Timperio, G. (May 2019). Why Extra Virgin Olive Oil is Far Better than Refined Olive Oil. Timperio. Retrieved from