Researchers at the University of Birmingham are searching for volunteers to take part in a new study to see whether eating a Mediterranean-style diet and being more physically active could improve brain function and reduce dementia risk.

A Mediterranean- style diet is rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes, wholegrain cereals, fish and olive oil with limited intake of dairy foods, red meat and confectionary, such as sweet pastries. Red wine is the typical alcoholic beverage, which is consumed with meals.

The trial, which is the first study of its kind in the UK, will attempt to change the diet and exercise habits of people over a 24-week period.

Researchers are looking for more than 60 volunteers from the Birmingham region to take part, with participants also being recruited in East Anglia and Newcastle.

Lead researcher Dr Sarah Aldred from the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences said: “There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK with this number set to soar to over 2 million by 2050. 

“While there are some drugs to help treat the symptoms of diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease, there are no treatments at the moment that can stop or slow the progression of dementia in the brain.

“Research tells us that lifestyle, especially in mid-life is really important for our risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Over the past 10 years, scientists have identified that a Mediterranean Diet and taking regular exercise improve brain function and are associated with a lower risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease.  However, more evidence is needed from human studies conducted in UK adults.”

Volunteers must be between 55 and 74 years old, and have no diagnosis of dementia but may be noticing some decline in their memory.

Dr Aldred said: “We’re looking for people who are prepared to try to make changes to their diet and physical activity levels. The study will involve cognitive tests, an MRI brain scan, providing a small number of blood samples, keeping a food record, wearing an activity monitor on your wrist and attending group sessions”

The Mediterranean Diet, Exercise and Dementia Risk Reduction Programme (MedEx-UK) is a collaborative project between The University of Birmingham, the Universities of Newcastle, East Anglia, Aberdeen and Cambridge. It is funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Anyone interested in taking part can check their eligibility by completing a simple questionnaire.

For further information please contact Beck Lockwood, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel 0121 414 2772.

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