New Australian research has provided another reason to fill up on a Mediterranean diet, finding that it can slow down cognitive decline.
As well as the many physical health benefits of the diet, including a reduced risk of stroke, heart disease, and cancer, a review of studies by a team from the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, has also found that a Mediterranean diet, or MedDiet for short, can also benefit the brain.
Rich in plant foods such as leafy greens, fresh fruit and vegetables, cereals, beans, seeds, nuts, and legumes, and including a moderate consumption of fish, the MedDiet is also low in dairy and red meat, with olive oil as its main source of healthy fat.
To carry out their investigation on its cognitive health benefits the team analyzed 18 papers from between 2000-2015 that looked at if and how a MedDiet may affect cognitive cognitive functioning.
The results showed that those who followed a MedDiet benefited from slower rates of cognitive decline, improved cognitive function, and a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Those following the diet also showed improvements in attention, memory, and language, with the MedDiet having a particulary positive effect on memory, improving various areas including long-term and working memory.
Although cognitive decline is a condition of associated with aging, the cognitive benefits of the diet observed were not unique to seniors, with two of the studies included also finding improvements in younger adults.
The team were also surprised to see that these positive results could be found all over the world, with a higher adherence to a MedDiet benefiting even those outside the Mediterranean region.
Explaining why the diet could have such positive effects on cognitive function, lead author Roy Hardman commented that the MedDiet helps to change some of the modifiable risk factors involved in cognitive decline.
“These include reducing inflammatory responses, increasing micronutrients, improving vitamin and mineral imbalances, changing lipid profiles by using olive oils as the main source of dietary fats, maintaining weight and potentially reducing obesity, improving polyphenols in the blood, improving cellular energy metabolism and maybe changing the gut micro-biota, although this has not been examined to a larger extent yet,” commented Hardman, before concluding that following or switching to a Mediterranean diet is advisable at any age, and even later in life is not too late to make the change.