A new study supports the hypothesis that a Mediterranean diet can slow down cognitive decline and protect your memory.
The Mediterranean diet has a trove of benefits on the human body. It keeps you genetically young, it’s good for your heart and is very good in weight management. Now, researchers have found another reason to feast on that good olive oil: it not only slows the rate of cognitive decline and reduces Alzheimer incidence, but it actually improves your cognitive functions and memory.
[panel style=”panel-default” title=”What the Mediterranean Diet contains” footer=””]The Mediterranean diet is based mostly on plant foods, especially leafy greens, fresh fruits, veggies, cereals, nuts, beans, and legumes. It’s pretty low in dairy, and includes a minimal quantity of red meat, instead gaining most of its fat content from olive oil.[/panel]
The leading author was Roy Hardman from the University of Technology in Melbourne. He and his team conducted what is called a meta-analysis: they evaluated all the available papers between 2000-2015 that investigated if and how a MedDiet may impact cognitive processes over time. The results were surprising. Not only was there a visible effect in the Mediterranean area, but everywhere in the world where people ate a MedDiet, there was an effect.
“The most surprising result was that the positive effects were found in countries around the whole world. So regardless of being located outside of what is considered the Mediterranean region, the positive cognitive effects of a higher adherence to a MedDiet were similar in all evaluated papers;” he said.
Attention, language, and memory all improved, but memory was especially affected. Researchers also have an explanation for this phenomenon. They believe that the diet reduces risks associated with memory decline.
“Why is a higher adherence to the MedDiet related to slowing down the rate of cognitive decline? The MedDiet offers the opportunity to change some of the modifiable risk factors,” he explained.
“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.”
It should also be noted that the impact wasn’t limited to the elder part of the population. Young adults also benefitted from a Mediterranean diet. For us, this is one of the few studies which we can take home immediately. Cut down on that red meat consumption, and eat more greens and nuts. Hardman does it too:
“I follow the diet patterns and do not eat any red meats, chicken or pork. I have fish two-three times per week and adhere to a Mediterranean style of eating.”
Journal Reference: Adherence to a Mediterranean-Style Diet and Effects on Cognition in Adults: A Qualitative Evaluation and Systematic Review of Longitudinal and Prospective Trials.
Alexandra is a naturalist who is firmly in love with our planet and the environment. When she's not writing about climate or animal rights, you can usually find her doing field research or reading the latest nutritional studies.