Aging brain benefits from Mediterranean diet

Researchers from the University of Navarra in Spain have added the Mediterranean diet to the list of strategies for slowing the cognitive decline of aging brains.  Already hailed for its benefits to heart health, the diet--rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seafood, pasta, olive oil and even a little red wine--can boost brain power for older people who may be at risk for vascular dementia, according to the new research.

The study, which  involved 522 men and women, aged 55 to 80, was designed to compare the Mediterranean diet to a low-fat diet to gauge which was more effective in warding off heart disease.  After concluding that the Mediterranean diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts, reduced risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death, the team of researchers took a look at the potential cognitive benefits.

The researchers randomly categorized the participants – one group ate a Mediterranean diet with added olive oil, one group ate the Mediterranean diet with added mixed nuts, and the third ate a low-fat diet.  The participants were followed for an average of six and a half years, with follow-ups every three months. They underwent tests for memory, attention, language, orientation, spatial awareness, abstract thinking and other brain functions.  The results indicated that brain function test scores were significantly higher for the two Mediterranean diet groups than for the low-fat diet group.

This study adds to the growing list of studies indicating that diet can play a significant role in sustaining the brain.

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