Scientists from Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom are currently conducting a study to investigate the potential benefits of a combined Mediterranean diet and walking intervention, referred to as the “MedWalk intervention,” in reducing the risk of cognitive decline and dementias, including Alzheimer’s dementia. Previous research has already shown that both a Mediterranean diet and regular walking have positive effects on brain health.
The ongoing study, which has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, aims to confirm these findings. The researchers have published their processes and ongoing analysis in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, despite having to modify the study’s design due to pandemic-related constraints. They have shortened the follow-up period to one year and are recruiting a wider sample of participants. The primary outcome of interest is the 12-month change in visual memory and learning. The researchers are also examining the intervention’s impact on mood, quality of life, health costs, cardiovascular health, arterial stiffness, and biomarkers associated with cognitive decline.
Participants in the study are individuals aged 60 to 90 living in South Australia and Victoria. They were recruited from independent living retirement communities and, due to the pandemic, from the larger community as well. The intervention group follows a Mediterranean diet and engages in a supervised walking regimen, supported by psychosocial behavioral change techniques. The participants receive intensive support for the first six months and additional assistance for the next six months to help them maintain the intervention. The researchers also provide education on the differences between a Mediterranean diet and a typical Australian diet. The study will be completed by the end of 2023.
Experts have previously found associations between a Mediterranean diet and a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, it’s essential to consider other factors, such as genetics, lifestyle, and overall health, that can influence dementia risk. Therefore, maintaining a healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet, is just one aspect of a comprehensive approach to brain health and dementia prevention. Sharing meals with loved ones and regular exercise, both components of the Mediterranean diet, have also been linked to brain health.
Walking regularly, in particular, has been associated with slower cognitive decline. Recent studies have found that taking 10,000 steps a day can lower the risk of dementia by 50% and that walking speed is correlated with dementia risk. Aerobic exercise, including walking, has also been shown to improve cognitive impairment. Walking has various potential benefits for brain health, including increased brain blood flow, improved brain activity, reduced stress levels, and enhanced well-being. Additionally, walking often incorporates social interactions and exposure to nature, which can have positive effects on the brain.
In summary, ongoing research is examining the effects of the MedWalk intervention, combining a Mediterranean diet and walking, on cognitive decline and dementias. The study is adapting to pandemic-related challenges and aims to confirm the benefits of a Mediterranean diet and walking previously observed in brain health research. The researchers are investigating various outcomes, including visual memory and learning, mood, quality of life, health costs, cardiovascular health, arterial stiffness, and biomarkers associated with cognitive decline. The study participants, aged 60 to 90, are recruited from retirement communities and the community at large in two Australian states. The intervention group receives intensive support and education on the Mediterranean diet, along with a supervised walking regimen. The study will provide valuable insights into the potential benefits of the MedWalk intervention on brain health and is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.