Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

The Metabolic Syndrome and Memory loss – Can Diet Help?

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Map in English of the Mediterranean Sea, with ...

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The metabolic syndrome is defined as having three or more of the following cardiovascular risk factors: high blood pressure, excess belly fat, higher-than-normal triglycerides, high blood sugar, and low HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

A study of 7, 087 people age 65 and older found that older adults with the metabolic syndrome were 13 percent more likely to demonstrate cognitive decline on the visual working memory test compared to those who did not have the syndrome.  Poorer scores in tests of visual working memory and word fluency memory were linked specifically to diabetes, but not to higher fasting blood sugar levels. Lower memory test scores were linked most directly with higher triglycerides and low HDL.

How Can Diet Help?

The Mediterranean diet is known to help prevent heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.  Now new research extends these benefits to diabetes, high blood pressure, and the metabolic syndrome.

The diet is based on the diet of the people in  coastal regions of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea – southern Italy, southern France, Greece, and Spain in the 1060’s when rates of chronic disease were among the lowest in the world, and adult life expectancy was among the highest. Researchers analyzed the results of 50 studies comprising more than 500,000 people to show that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome.

The study also revealed that the Mediterranean diet also boosts levels of high-density lipoprotein (good) cholesterol. Physical activity enhances the positive benefits of the diet, the study also noted.

The study as always has limitations.  “The studies varied greatly in terms of length with some as short as four weeks, some as long as four years, and only a few were conducted in the U.S. population where the food culture varies tremendously by regions”, said Jessica Bartfield, MD, an internist at Gottleib Memorial Hospital, part of Loyola Univeristy Health System in Maywood, IL.

However, the western diet is seriously unhealthy as it is an animal-based diet, rather than a plant-based diet. Also, we have been sold on high amounts of protein by the meat and dairy industries for years and years. We do not need vast amounts of protein.  Most of us consume far more than we really need and animal protein is not required.  Try Vegetarian Wednesdays to start. Then add Meatless Monday. That ‘s two days without meat.  You don’t need to give up red meat entirely – just use it with smaller portions and less often.

The Mediterranean Diet takes us away from factory foods that are made from refined flours, oils, and ingredients we cannot pronounce.  If food is in the shape of a little square and wrapped in plastic, beware!!!!  These overly processed foods usually have too many calories. We simply eat too much protein, too much fat and too much carbohydrate. Eating more fruits and vegetables along with whole grains helps your health because these foods have less caloric density, yet fill you up.

I found an interesting glimpse on what this diet really is (or was) from a reader comment in an article on the Mediterranean diet. … “it is  basically the diet I grew up on and for which I’m grateful, to my parents, immigrant Sicilian & Neapolitan grandparents and my southern Italian ancestors. Green vegetables every night (broccoli rabe, broccoli, chard, spinach, escarole, dandelion greens, string beans, etc), poultry and meat infrequently, the latter most often in the ragu for pasta, so there weren’t huge portions of it.  Lots of legumes (lentils, in soup and with pasta, chick peas, and various beans), lots of fish and seafood, and salad after every meal. Most often we’d have nuts and/or fruit for dessert; sweets generally were for Sundays and holidays. We used olive oil for almost everything, sometimes vegetable oil for frying. I still eat this way today at home, and it’s kept me healthy and at a good weight.”

I thank the reader for the comment.  What more can be said?  Sounds like a good plan to me. Your heart and your brain will thank you


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One thought on “The Metabolic Syndrome and Memory loss – Can Diet Help?

  1. I do accept as true with all the concepts you’ve introduced on your post. They’re really convincing and will certainly work.
    Still, the posts are too short for starters.
    Could you please extend them a little from next time?
    Thanks for the post.


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