It may seem nutty. But eating like a Greek and consuming additional extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts may help older people’s brain power – more so, apparently, than a low-fat diet, a new study suggests.
The study, in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, is the latest to suggest the potential benefits of a Mediterranean diet – and olive oil and nuts, in particular – on heart and brain health. A Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, seafood, whole grain, olive oil and nuts.
In the new study, researchers at the University of Navarra, in Spain, wrote that a Mediterranean diet “enhanced with either (extra virgin olive oil) or nuts appears to improve cognition compared with a low-fat diet.”
The researchers tracked 522 men and women between the ages of 55 and 80. The subjects didn’t suffer from heart disease but were considered at high risk because of factors like diabetes, being overweight, family history, and smoking.
The participants were divided into three groups: two consumed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with either extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts, while the third consumed a low-fat diet.
The researchers tested the participants about 6-1/2 years later for signs of cognitive decline. Those who consumed the Mediterranean diet with the additional olive oil or nuts fared better than those on the low-fat diet.
“There are several ways that adding olive oil or nuts to the diet might protect the brain, the researchers said,” an article on NBC News.com noted. “Olive oil and nuts contain monounsaturated fats, which are better for artery health than the saturated fats found in butter, meat and lard. These foods are also high in fiber and vitamin E, as well as minerals. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.”
It’s just the latest in a string of positive news about the potential health benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet:
- Earlier in May, a study published in the journal Neurology suggested that 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.
- And another recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested 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.