Staff Reporter
LAWRENCE Whalley, an expert in neuroscience at the University of Aberdeen, gave prominence yesterday, to the Mediterranean diet as a fundamental factor in attaining good mental health and preventing dementia.

He reported that there were different scientific studies which showed that a balanced diet, such as that which exists in Southern European countries, is good for the heart and brain.

Whalley, who was taking part yesterday in an International Congress on Memory Aging organised by the “Sa Nostra” cultural foundation and the Balearic university, highlighted the qualities of the Mediterranean diet. It is rich in antioxidants and fish oil which help prevent mental illness.

He warned that the change of trend in the way young people were eating nowadays could cause the onset of dementia in the future and may even result in their having a shorter lifespan than adults of today. “It may be the case” he said, “that the reputation for healthy adulthood in this part of the world (Southern Europe), may not be inherited by the young”.

The expert emphasised the importance of keeping up a balanced diet to help stave off mental disorders. He added that genetic factors could also be a trigger for specific conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease. He declared that 30 percent of cases of this disease emerging at relatively early ages (prior to 60), is owed to a genetic factor, while in the remaining 70 percent of cases, causes remain unknown.

Whalley stressed the importance of older people keeping active physically and socially so that their intellect remains “in good working order”. He said that at the moment there is no evidence that the use of devices such as calculators and computers, which act as a substitute for the human mind in some cases, cause mental deterioration. “People who are socially active usually age well” he added. Similarly, he declared that according to the investigations he is conducting, there is a relation between infancy and old age in the development of possible mental illnesses.

In fact, Whalley explained that children who have healthy habits and behaviour, also age well, while children who grow up in an unhealthy and unstable environment from which they cannot escape, may as a result have their levels of intelligence impaired. Whalley pointed to the fact that healthy habits may be acquired over the course of a lifetime.

The expert also highlighted the fact that lifestyle is important for maintaining mental health and signalled that stress is a symptom associated with a state of poor health whether it is physical or mental.

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