Mediterranean diet boosts brains of older adults

It’s been well-documented that the Mediterranean diet is good for the body. Now a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests it's also good for the mind--specifically that its key components of olive oil and nuts may help combat cognitive decline in older people.

Researchers had 300 randomly selected people follow the Mediterranean diet for four years. The average age of the participants was 67. They also had 145 people follow a low-fat diet at the same time. The researchers asked that 155 people following the Mediterranean diet to add one liter of extra virgin olive oil to their diet each week. At the same time, 145 people added a mix of 30 grams of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds each day.

After four years, the researchers compared the cognitive function of the two groups. People who followed the Mediterranean diet showed improved cognitive function; by comparison, people on the low-fat diet showed a decrease in cognitive function. People who added extra servings of nuts, however, improved their memory abilities compared to people on the low-fat diet. People who increased their olive oil intake also showed improved memory, reasoning and attention compared to people on the low-fat diet.

While it’s not exactly clear what may have caused these improvements, researchers believe the phenolic compounds in nuts and olive oil may help combat certain chemical processes in the brain that lead to neurological decline. The findings also help support the fact that humans do need fat, especially healthy fats, albeit in moderation.

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