More Good News About the Mediterranean Diet: It May Help Your Brain

News continues to roll in about why it’s good to eat like a Greek. The latest: Adhering to a Mediterranean diet – rich in vegetables, fruit, seafood, olive oil, legumes and nuts – may be good for your brain, a large new study suggests.

Courtesy of Oldways
Courtesy of Oldways

In particular, researchers said eating foods containing omega-3 fatty acids – fish, chicken, and salad dressing – and laying off saturated fats, meat and dairy may help preserve your memory and thinking abilities. The link wasn’t found among people suffering from diabetes. The study was published in the journal Neurology.

“Since there are no definitive treatments for most dementing illnesses, modifiable activities, such as diet, that may delay the onset of symptoms of dementia are very important,” Georgios Tsivgoulis, the study’s lead author, said in a news release. Tsivgoulis is affiliated with the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Athens in Greece.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, meanwhile, suggests a  Mediterranean diet – particularly one rich with extra virgin olive oil and nuts – lowers the risk of stroke and other heart problems by 30 percent among high-risk individuals.

Tsivgoulis said the Mediterranean diet “has many benefits — cardiovascular, cancer risk, anti-inflammatory, central nervous system. We’re on the tip of the iceberg, and trying to understand what is below,” according to the New York Times.

In the brain study, researchers tracked 17,478 healthy men and women with an average age of 64 to see how closely they stuck to a Mediterranean diet.

The participants were given tests to measure memory and thinking abilities over an average of four years. Seven percent developed thinking and memory deficits during the study.

Researchers found that healthy people who more closely followed a Mediterranean diet were 19 percent less likely to develop problems with thinking and memory skills.

However, the Mediterranean diet was not associated with a lower risk of thinking and memory problems in people with diabetes. Seventeen percent of the participants had diabetes.

“Diet is an important modifiable activity that could help in preserving cognitive functioning in late life,” Tsivgoulis said in the news release. “However, it is only one of several important lifestyle activities that might play a role in late-life mental functioning. Exercise, avoiding obesity, not smoking cigarettes and taking medications for conditions like diabetes and hypertension are also important.”

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