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Volunteers from Norfolk wanted for study into whether Mediterranean diet could prevent dementia

PUBLISHED: 00:01 02 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:25 02 January 2020

Researchers are appealing for volunteers to help with a study looking at the health benefits of Mediterranean-style diets. Pic: Denise Bradley

Researchers are appealing for volunteers to help with a study looking at the health benefits of Mediterranean-style diets. Pic: Denise Bradley

©Archant Photographic 2009

Scientists studying dementia are appealing for volunteers to help them investigate how feasible it is for people to take up and stick to a Mediterranean-style diet.

Anne-Marie Minihane, from the University of East Anglia. Pic: Archant Library.Anne-Marie Minihane, from the University of East Anglia. Pic: Archant Library.

Researchers at the University of East Anglia are looking for healthy volunteers between the ages of 55 and 74 for the research - which could lead to a bigger study into the effects of healthy eating and exercise on dementia risk.

There are an estimated 14,000 people in Norfolk living with dementia, and that number is set to rise to 19,000 by 2025.

While risk factors for dementia are complex, the latest research shows that there are things within people's control that could help reduce dementia risk, including keeping their heart healthy.

Prof Anne-Marie Minihane, from Norwich Medical School, is leading part of a clinical trial, known as the Med-Ex Feasibility Study.

The six-month trial is designed to encourage people with a higher risk of heart disease to adopt a Mediterranean-style diet and take more exercise.

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Dementia risk and the risk of heart disease are closely intertwined, with current evidence suggesting that what is good for the heart tends to be good for the head.

If successful, this research could lead to a much larger trial to determine the effects of exercise and healthy eating on dementia risk.

Alzheimer's Research UK funded the trial through the Mike Gooley Trailfinders Charity Prevention and Risk Reduction fund and the project is a collaboration between research teams at UEA, Newcastle University, and the Universities of Birmingham and Aberdeen.

And Prof Minihane said: "A Mediterranean-style diet that is low in meat and dairy but rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, cereals, beans, nuts, fish and 'healthy' fats like olive oil, has been linked to a range of health benefits.

"This trial is looking at whether it's feasible for people to take up and stick to a Mediterranean diet and will also investigate any potential protective effects against memory and thinking problems.

"Generally, prevention is even better than a cure, so if we can stop memory problems from starting it could prove to be a real game-changer."

People interested in taking part can call Alzheimer's Research UK Dementia Research on 0300 111 5111 or sign up online at joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk

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