A group of leading doctors from the G8 countries have penned a letter to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron, urging them not to overlook the importance of diet and lifestyle factors in reducing the risk of dementia. The call comes ahead of the G8 dementia research summit in London this Wednesday, which brings together health ministers from G8 countries to discuss how they can co-ordinate dementia research efforts across the world.
The letter is signed by UK doctors including former Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Professor Clare Gerada, Chair of the National Obesity Forum, Professor David Haslam, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Liverpool Simon Capewell and London Cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, as well as doctors from other G8 countries.
The letter calls for the G8 governments to consider research suggesting that diet and lifestyle can lower the risk of dementia. The authors suggest that public health measures could have a larger impact in the fight to reduce rising dementia rates than pharmaceutical and medical interventions.
The Mediterranean diet discussed in the letter includes daily consumption of vegetables, fruit and unrefined cereals, twice weekly consumption of legumes and fish, weekly consumption of meat and sugary food, and using olive oil for cooking and nuts and olives as snacks.
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“While there is some evidence of an association between Mediterranean diet and reduced cognitive decline, we don’t know for sure that adopting such a diet could prevent dementia. Eating a healthy diet – high in vegetables and olive oil and low in saturated fat, meat and dairy – in combination with regular exercise remains good advice for defending against many serious health conditions. The more we can learn from research about methods of modifying dementia risk, including lifestyle factors, the more we can educate and empower people to help avoid it.
“Studies into dementia risk reduction and prevention play an important role in a research strategy that must include improving diagnosis and developing new treatments. Research must focus on delivering benefits for over 44 million people living with dementia around the world today, as well as helping to prevent future generations from succumbing.”