Cut your risk of dementia with these anti-inflammatory foods

These foods can undo the inflammation caused by your diet and keep your brain healthier for longer

A selection of Mediterranean diet foods
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Scientists can't yet fully explain the causes of dementia. However, they have identified several anti-inflammatory foods to lower your risk of developing the condition later in life. 

We know we have to look after our bodies and minds as we get older, including adding the best fish oil supplements to our diets. This keeps our Omega-3 levels topped up to protect our hearts and wellbeing. 

Alongside that, sticking to a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts generally keeps us in good shape. But researchers have also found that these foods have anti-inflammatory effects. 

As part of a new study published in the journal Neurology, the team recruited 1,059 people, with an average age of 73, living in Greece without dementia. 

Each person completed a food questionnaire to assess the inflammatory effect of their diet, and the researchers kept tabs on them for an average of three years. 

In this study, the participants with the lowest levels of inflammation ate 20 servings of fruit, four servings of beans or legumes, 19 portions of vegetables, and 11 cups of either tea or coffee each week. 

Vegetarian pizza

(Image credit: Getty Images)

To create the diet inflammatory index (DII), the foods were assessed on 45 measures and given a score, with a higher DII indicating a more inflammatory diet. 

Across the period, 62 people (about 6%) developed dementia. After pouring over the data, the team found that for every unit increase in the DII, there was a 21% increase in the risk of dementia. 

The study included Greek participants as the country forms part of the Mediterranean Basin, a geographic region along the coast of the Mediterranean sea.

Thanks to the warmer climate, people in this area tend to follow a diet high in fish, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains. Scientists have repeatedly found that the Mediterranean Diet is good for your health.

Interestingly, nutrients in all foods can cause inflammation, so the key is to offset this using those with higher anti-inflammatory effects. 

Sticking to a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet plays a role in reducing your risk of dementia, as does exercise. One review of published research found that physical activity protects your brain's structure. 

It's not always easy to tell how much we're moving throughout the day. If you need some guidance, pick up one of the best fitness watches to count your steps, monitor your sleep, and track your workouts.

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.