Objective: To investigate the possible role of diet in age-related cognitive decline (ARCD) and cognitive impairment of both degenerative (Alzheimer's disease, AD) and vascular (vascular dementia, VaD) origin.
Design: Literature review.
Results: In an elderly population of southern Italy with a typical Mediterranean diet, high energy intake of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) appeared to be associated with a high level of protection against ARCD. In addition, dietary fat and energy in the elderly seem to be risk factors, while fish consumption and cereals are found to reduce the prevalence of AD in European and North American countries. Finally, the relative risk of dementia (AD and VaD) was lower in the subjects of a French cohort who drank three or four glasses of red wine each day compared with total abstainers.
Conclusion: Essential components of the Mediterranean diet--MUFA, cereals and wine--seem to be protective against cognitive decline. As such, dietary antioxidants and supplements, specific macronutrients of the Mediterranean diet, oestrogens and anti-inflammatory drugs may act synergistically with other protective factors, opening up new therapeutic interventions for cognitive decline.