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Seafood and Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Brain Health in Aging

To see how the Mediterranean diet relates to brain health, researchers analyzed the diets and health of 7,756 older adults. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet had a significantly lower risk of cognitive impairment but did not have a significantly slower decline in cognitive function. However, those eating the most fish had both a significantly lower risk of cognitive impairment and a significantly slower decline in cognitive function.
Alzheimers Dement. 2020 Jun;16(6):831-842. doi: 10.1002/alz.12077. Epub 2020 Apr 13. (Keenan TD et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Brain Function in Men with Heart Disease

The Mediterranean diet is well-known for its links to brain health, and new research demonstrates that these ties hold up in populations with heart disease as well. In this study, researchers analyzed the diets of 200 men (average age 57), then assessed their brain health 14 and 20 years later. Not following a Mediterranean Diet was linked with a greater decline in overall cognitive performance and visual spatial functions.
Nutritional Neuroscience. 2020 Jan 22:1-9. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2020.1715049. (Lutski M et al.)

Seafood During Pregnancy Linked with Improved Brain Development in Children

Seafood is well-recognized for its brain health benefits, but researchers wonder if these benefits outweigh the risks of mercury exposure. In this study, scientists analyzed 44 papers on 102,944 mother-child pairs and 25,031 children. They found consistent evidence of brain health benefits for children when mothers ate seafood while pregnant, and that benefits began even at the lowest amounts of seafood (about 4 oz /week). No negative impacts on neurocognitive development were noted even at the highest levels of seafood consumption (more than 12 ounces per week).
Prostaglandins Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids. 2019 Oct 11;151:14-36. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2019.10.002. (Hibbeln CJR et al.)

Healthy Diet in Midlife Linked with Lower Risk of Cognitive Impairment Later in Life

Eating a healthy diet in mid-life can pay dividends in later decades. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating habits of 16,948 middle-aged adults in China, then assessed their brain function 20 years later. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet or a Plant-Based Diet were 33% and 18% less likely to have cognitive impairment than those not following those diets. Other healthy diets, including the DASH diet and the alternative Healthy Eating Index, were also linked with significantly lower risks of cognitive impairment.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2019 Oct 1;110(4):912-920. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz150. (Wu J et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Improvements in Brain Function in Adults Age 70+

What nourishes your body can also help nourish your brain as well. In this study, researchers analyzed the eating habits and brain function of more than 1,400 older adults. In the adults aged at least 70 years old, closely following a Mediterranean diet was linked with improvements in global cognitive function, visual-spatial organization, memory, scanning, and tracking. However, the results were not statistically significant in the adults younger than age 70, or in the group as a whole.
Nutritional Neuroscience. 2019 Aug 21. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2019.1655201. (Wade AT et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Cognitive Function in Adults with Well-Controlled Type 2 Diabetes

Healthy diets are known to support brain health in a general population, so researchers wonder if this benefit also extends to patients with diabetes. Scientists analyzed the eating habits, blood sugar control, and brain function in 913 adults, nearly half of whom had type 2 diabetes. In patients who had good blood sugar control, those most closely following a Mediterranean diet significantly improved their cognitive function over the 2-year study. However, the results were not statistically significant in patients without diabetes or patients with poor blood sugar control.
Diabetes Care. 2019 May 23. pii: dc190130. doi: 10.2337/dc19-0130. [Epub ahead of print] (Mattei J et al.)

Mediterranean Diet in Adulthood Linked with Healthier Brain in Midlife

While there is much to learn about preventing dementia and cognitive decline, the Mediterranean diet seems to show promise in protecting brain health across the lifespan. In this study, scientists analyzed the eating habits of 2,621 adults at ages 25, 32, and 45 years, then analyzed their brain function at ages 50 and 55. Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet had a 46% lower risk of having poor cognitive function. Those whose diets scored highly on the A Priori Diet Quality Score (a measure of how nutritious your diet is) also had a reduced risk of poor cognitive function, while the DASH diet (a healthy diet to prevent high blood pressure) did not show a significant relationship with brain health.
Neurology. 2019 Apr 2;92(14):e1589-e1599. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000007243. (McEvoy CT et al.)

Mediterranean Diet in Young Adulthood Linked with Healthier Brain in Middle Age

Eat a nutritious diet while you’re young, and your brain may thank you later. Scientists analyzed the diets of 2,621 young adults (average age: 25) and then assessed their brain health 25 & 30 years later (average ages: 50 & 55, respectively). Those most closely following a Mediterranean diet in young adulthood had a significantly lower decline in cognitive function than those not following a Mediterranean diet.
Neurology. 2019 Mar 6. pii: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000007243. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000007243. [Epub ahead of print] (McEvoy CT et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Brain Health in Adults at Risk for Alzheimer's

Numerous studies have observed a link between the Mediterranean Diet and slower cognitive decline, but researchers wonder how this might relate to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. To better understand diet’s relationship with Alzheimer’s pathology, scientists analyzed the eating patterns and buildup of Aβ (small pieces of protein that can accumulate in the brain, potentially creating plaques and causing brain cells to be destroyed) in 77 older adults who were already on the path to Alzheimer’s disease (by being flagged as being Aβ accumulators). Those most closing following a Mediterranean diet had significantly less Aβ accumulation over time, with fruit standing out as a particularly beneficial food. The authors suggest that improving your Mediterranean diet score by just 1 point (0-9 point scale) may result in a 20% decrease in Aβ accumulation over 1 year, and up to a 60% decrease over 3 years.
Translational Psychiatry. 2018 Oct 30;8(1):238. doi: 10.1038/s41398-018-0293-5. (Rainey-Smith SR et al.)

More Research Needed on Mediterranean Diet & Cognition

To get a better understanding of how the Mediterranean diet relates to brain health, researchers analyzed existing randomized controlled trials (the “gold standard” of nutrition research, where participants are randomly assigned to one diet or another, so that researchers can look for causal relationships). Thus far only 5 randomized controlled trials on the Mediterranean diet and cognition have been published, with mostly insignificant results. However, the researchers did note that the most well-designed studies (using PREDIMED data) are the studies that found a protective effect on dementia risk and cognition, indicating that the Mediterranean diet might hold promise in these areas. More research is needed.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2018 Mar 1;107(3):389-404. (Radd-Vagenas S et al.)

Mediterranean-Inspired Diet May Slow Cognitive Decline in Stroke Survivors

Stroke survivors are twice as likely to develop dementia compared to the general population. To see how diet relates to brain health in stroke survivors, researchers analyzed the eating patterns and brain function of 106 stroke survivors for more than 4 years. Those most closely following a “MIND diet” had a slower rate of cognitive decline than those who don’t follow a MIND diet. The MIND diet is a hybrid Mediterranean-DASH diet that emphasizes foods associated with brain health, including whole grains, green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, olive oil, and fish. The Mediterranean diet is well-known for its brain benefits, so it’s not surprising that this new diet inspired by the Mediterranean diet is also showing promise for brain health. 
Presentation at the American Heart Association Meeting. Los Angeles, California. January 25, 2018. 

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Improved Cognitive Performance in Elderly

As global life expectancy grows, dementia is an increasing concern. Healthy eating patterns like the Mediterranean Diet are thought to help decrease the risk of such diseases. Researchers recently analyzed the diets of 1,865 Greek adults over the age of 64 as part of The Hellenic Longitudinal Investigation of Ageing and Diet (HELIAD) study. The researchers concluded that closer adherence to the Mediterranean Diet may be associated with improved cognitive performance—particularly memory—and lower dementia rates. Fish and whole grains in particular were singled out for their association with cognitive benefits.
PLOS One. 2017 August 1. 12(8): e0182048. (Anastasiou CA et al.)

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