Sticking to a Mediterranean diet which includes leafy vegetables, nuts and olive oil, may reduce cognitive decline and risk of Alzheimer’s disease, new research has claimed.
The Mediterranean diet can improve your memory as well heart health, researchers said.
The main foods in the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) include plant foods, such as leafy greens, fresh fruit and vegetables, cereals, beans, seeds, nuts and legumes.
MedDiet is also low in dairy, has minimal red meat, and uses olive oil as its major source of fat.
By sticking to the MedDiet the study showed that people had slowed rates of cognitive decline, reduced conversion to Alzheimer’s, and improved cognitive function.
Researchers from the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia evaluated all the available studies between 2000-2015 that investigated if and how a MedDiet may impact cognitive processes over time.
In total, 18 out of the 135 articles met their strict inclusion criteria.
“The most surprising result was that the positive effects were found in countries around the whole world,” said Roy Hardman from Swinburne University of Technology.
“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.
Researchers found that attention, memory, and language improved in people who adhered to MedDiet.
Memory, in particular, was positively affected by the MedDiet, including improvements in delayed recognition, long-term and working memory, executive function and visual constructs.
“MedDiet offers the opportunity to change some of the modifiable risk factors,” Hardman said.
“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,” he said.
The benefits to cognition afforded by the MedDiet were not exclusive to older individuals, researchers said.
Two of the included studies focused on younger adults and they both found improvements in cognition using computerised assessments, they said.
The scientists envision that the utilisation of a dietary pattern, such as the MedDiet, will be an essential tool to maintain quality of life and reduce the potential social and economic burdens of manifested cognitive declines like dementia.
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.