Good news out on the brain front: Eating a Mediterranean diet – rich in olive oil, veggies, fruit and fish – may boost brain performance and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, a new review of available research suggests.
The findings represent the first systematic review of such data. Researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School in Britain analyzed the results of 12 studies. (Click here to see the news release about the study.)
In nine out of the 12 studies, the researchers said, a higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with better cognitive function, lower rates of cognitive decline, and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A higher adherence to the diet means higher daily consumption of fruit and vegetables and fish, and lower intakes of meat and dairy products.
“Mediterranean food is both delicious and nutritious, and our systematic review shows it may help to protect the ageing brain by reducing the risk of dementia,” researcher Iliana Lourida, who led the study, said in a statement. “While the link between adherence to a Mediterranean diet and dementia risk is not new, ours is the first study to systematically analyze all existing evidence.”
A study released earlier this year suggested that a natural compound which gives good olive oil it’s peppery kick – oleocanthol – may help prevent Alzheimer’s by shuttling abnormal Alzheimer’s disease proteins from the brain.
In the latest study, the researchers said they didn’t find a clear link between eating a Mediterranean diet and a lower risk of mild cognitive impairment. So-called MCI triggers cognitive changes that are serious enough to be noticed by the individuals experiencing them or to other people; but the changes aren’t severe enough to interfere with daily life.
“Our review also highlights inconsistencies in the literature and the need for further research,” Lourida said. In particular, she noted, research is needed “to clarify the association” with mild cognitive impairment and vascular dementia, which is a decline in thinking skills caused by conditions that block or reduce blood flow to the brain.
The findings were published in the journal Epidemiology.