Why viking diet is best way to keep brain healthy, fight dementia

Vikings may be best known for marauding and pillaging but there is one Nordic behaviour that is worth copying.

Sticking to a traditional Nordic diet can support brain health in old age and could help fight off dementia.

The diet is high in fish, non-root vegetables, fruit, rice and chicken, washed down with plenty of water and tea.

In good news for drinkers, the diet also includes a light to moderate consumption of wine.

People sticking to the so-called 'healthy Nordic diet' should avoid eating too many root vegetables, potatoes, refined grains, butter, sugar and fruit juice.


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A Swedish study of 2,223 people carried out by the Karolinska Institute looked to see whether the diet had any effect on brain function.

They found that being relatively good or very good at sticking to the diet was linked with a smaller decline in memory and thinking skills.



Another study by the University of California, San Francisco, of 5,907 healthy older people found those who stuck to the Mediterranean diet – which high in vegetables and olive oil and low in meat and dairy – were around 35 per cent less likely to perform poorly in cognitive tests than those who did not.

It backs up several earlier studies showing the Mediterranean diet is good for overall health.

Both studies were presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in London.

A third study, from Columbia University, New York, showed evidence eating poorly was associated with smaller brain size and worse cognitive performance.



Dr Maria Carrillo, of the Alzheimer's Association, said the studies showed even making small changes to diet could help.

She said: "Even modest changes having positive [effects] is very good news.

"Eating healthily helps us [prevent dementia], as all the antioxidants clear out the brain and give it the good nutrients to give it the mechanisms to help itself."

Dr David Reynolds, chief scientific officer at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "Observational studies like these can be useful for highlighting factors linked to healthy ageing, but this type of research can't definitively answer whether specific diets can prevent dementia.

"Current dementia risk reduction efforts are exploring ways to support people in mid-life to adopt healthier diets, as this could be an effective way of lowering the number of people who go on to develop dementia in later life."