For help with a story or to find an expert: 0114 225 2811

Funding boost for research into links between Mediterranean diet, exercise and dementia

Media centre home > News> Food and nutrition> Funding boost for research into links between Mediterranean diet, exercise and dementia


An international clinical trial involving academics from Sheffield Hallam University exploring the effects of following a Mediterranean diet and regular exercise on those living with dementia has been awarded almost £1 million funding.

Sheffield Hallam is one of a group of seven universities from England and Australia who are collaborating on this project to determine the effects of a combination of a Mediterranean diet and daily exercise on reducing cognitive decline and other dementia risk factors in older Australians.

The project will look at the psychological and physiological impacts of the Mediterranean diet and exercise on early stages of dementia.

The trial, led by Swinburne University in Australia, aims to investigate the underlying factors responsible for reducing dementia risk and the cost-effectiveness of the intervention. 

The National Health Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding of 1.7 million Australian dollars (around £948,000) enables the institutions to extend a successful six-month trial to two years. 

Sheffield Hallam's role in the trial came about as a result of the University's close partnership with La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. The two universities announced a strategic partnership earlier this year to support research collaboration and international exchange opportunities for staff and students.

Dr. Jeff Breckon is head of research at Sheffield Hallam University's Academy of Sport and Physical Activity and the lead for the University on the trial.

He is one of nine co-investigators on the project and will design, deliver and analyse training on Motivational Interviewing and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (MI-CBT) components of the trial.

It is hoped the study will be replicated in the UK in the future.

Dr. Breckon said: "Dementia is a cruel disease which is extremely difficult to treat, particularly in the later stages. As the population ages, the government faces huge costs of supporting people living with dementia.

"Focusing efforts on helping those at risk of developing dementia to stay health and independent for longer is one way to ease that pressure. 

"We're delighted to be involved in this important research in Autralia and we hope to duplicate the study in the UK which will ultimately support people living with dementia here to live longer, healthier, more independent lives."

Professor Roger Eccleston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at Sheffield Hallam University, said: "This collaborative research project is testament to the impact of the University's strategic partnership with La Trobe University.

"The partnership offers dynamic new opportunities for research and innovation projects with worldwide impact, through shared areas of strength that include seeking to improve public health and social care, physical activity levels and manufacturing productivity.

"This trial could have significant impacts for people living with dementia, not just in Australia but worldwide."

The trial builds on existing literature exploring the relation of diet and exercise on brain function. 

Swinburne University is leading the trial alongside University of South Australia, La Trobe University, Deakin University, Murdoch University, Sheffield Hallam University and University of East Anglia.  

For press information:Nicky Swire in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 4505 or email