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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.)

Mediterranean-Based Diets Associated with Better Cognitive Function

Dementia is a serious neurological disease, so preventive measures are an important area of research.  In a study of 5,907 adults, researchers analyzed whether the Mediterranean diet and/or the MIND diet  (a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet, full of “brain-healthy” foods like leafy greens, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, seafood, poultry, olive oil, and wine) have an effect on cognitive performance. Researchers found that those most closely following the Mediterranean Diet had 35% lower odds of having poor cognitive performance (assessed through tests of memory and attention), when compared to those not following a Mediterranean Diet. Results were similar for the MIND diet, probably because there is so much overlap in these two eating patterns.
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 25 April 2017. [Epub ahead of print.]  (McEvoy CT, et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less ADHD in Kids

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) seems to be on the rise, so health experts wonder if diet might be related. To test this hypothesis, researchers in Spain matched 60 children newly diagnosed with ADHD to 60 children without ADHD (of the same age and sex), and analyzed their eating habits based on how closely they follow a Mediterranean diet. Children most closely following a Mediterranean diet (eating a second serving of fruit daily, eating vegetables daily, and eating pasta or rice almost every day) were significantly less likely to have ADHD. Children with ADHD were also more likely to eat more fast food, soft drinks, and candy, and were more likely to skip breakfast.
Pediatrics. 2017 Jan 30. pii: e20162027. [ePub ahead of print.] (Rios-Hernandez A et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Less Age-Related Brain Shrinkage

As people age, their brains gradually shrink over time. But certain lifestyle habits may be able to slow this loss. In a study of more than 1,000 elderly Scottish adults, researchers found that those most closely following a Mediterranean diet lost significantly less total brain volume over the 3-year study period than those who didn’t eat a Mediterranean diet. The authors also found that “fish and meat consumption does not drive this change, suggesting that other components of the [Mediterranean Diet] or, possibly, all of its components in combination are responsible for the association.”
Neurology. 2017 Jan 4. pii: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000003559.[Epub ahead of print](Luciano M et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Cognitive Benefits, Less Conversion to Alzheimer’s

Research continues to tout the brain benefits of a delicious and nutritious Mediterranean diet. In a review article, Australian researchers analyzed more than a dozen longitudinal and prospective studies (where participants are observed over a long period of time) to determine the link between eating patterns and cognitive health. In the 18 studies, encompassing nearly 60,000 adults total, the scientists found that closely following a Mediterranean diet was associated with “slower rates of cognitive decline, reduced conversion to Alzheimer’s disease, and improvements in cognitive function.” More specifically, the Mediterranean diet was linked with better memory, executive function (which controls behavior, planning, and reasoning), and visual constructs.
Frontiers in Nutrition. 2016 Jul 22;3:22. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2016.00022. [Epub] (Hardman RJ et al.)

Mediterranean Diet Linked with Better Brain Structure in Elderly

The Mediterranean diet has long been associated with healthy aging, but emerging research is shedding new light onto why this might be. Researchers analyzed the eating patterns and brain size in 674 elderly (average age 80) adults without dementia in New York City. They found that those most closely following the Mediterranean diet had larger brains (total brain volume, grey matter, and white matter), with an effect similar to 5 years of aging. Of the specific foods studied, eating 3-5 oz fish weekly, and keeping meat intake under 3.5 oz per day, was also linked with larger brain volumes, equivalent to about 3-4 years of aging. These results suggest that a Mediterranean diet, especially one that encourages fish consumption over meat consumption, could promote brain health, as brain atrophy (brain shrinkage) has been linked with cognitive decline.
Neurology. 2015 Oct 21. (Gu Y et al.) [Epub ahead of print.]

Mediterranean Diet Reduces Risk of Cognitive Decline

Just because you don’t live in the Mediterranean, doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the Mediterranean diet. An Australian study followed 527 healthy older adults (average age=69 years) in 3 different dietary pattern groups (Australian-style Mediterranean, Prudent/healthy, and Western) over a 3-year period. Researchers found that in participants with genetic predisposition to Alzheimers disease (APoE4 allele carriers), high adherence to the Australian-style Mediterranean diet (high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and fish) was associated with better executive function, the set of mental processes used in planning, strategizing, remembering details, and managing time and space.
Molecular Psychiatry. 2014 July 29. [Epub ahead of print] (Gardener SL et al.) 

Med Diet Linked with Better Cognitive Function

Researchers analyzed the food intake and cognitive function in a group of 3,831 older adults in Utah over 11 years. Those most closely following a DASH diet (a healthy diet used to treat hypertension that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, and limited sweets and salt) or Mediterranean diet at the start of the study were found to have consistently better cognitive function than those not following those diets. In particular, whole grains, nuts, and legumes were all linked with better cognitive function, and the researchers concluded that these “may be core neuroprotective foods common to various healthy plant-centered diets around the globe.”
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013 Nov;98(5):1263-71. (Wengreen H et al.)

Med Diet Associated with Healthy Aging

A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine demonstrates that eating a Mediterranean Diet is associated with greater health and well-being in older age. The study analyzed food frequency questionnaires collected between 1984 and 1986 from 10,670 women in their late 50s and early 60s with no major chronic diseases. Fifteen years later researchers again collected data from the same women and found that those who had adhered to a Mediterranean Diet in middle age were about 40% more likely to live past 70 and to have avoided 11 chronic diseases measured in the study including many cancers, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Those who most closely followed a Med Diet also were more likely to age without physical disabilities, signs of cognitive impairment, or mental health problems.
Annals of Internal Medicine. 2013; 159(9): 584-591. (Samieri, et al.)

Mediterranean Diet and Risk of Incident Cognitive Impairment

Researchers from Greece, the Czech Republic, and the United States collaborated to follow more than 17,000 individuals for approximately 4 years to evaluate the effects of the Mediterranean Diet on cognitive status. Using Food Frequency Questionnaires, they determined that higher adherence to the Mediterranean Diet was associated with lower likelihood of incident cognitive impairment, even after adjusting for demographic characteristics, environmental factors, vascular risk factors, depressive symptoms, and self-reported health status. Although higher adherence to the Mediterranean Diet reduced risk of incident cognitive impairment in nondiabetic individuals, it did not yield the same results in patients with diabetes.

Neurology. 2013 Apr 30; 80(18):1684-1692. (Tsivgoulis et al.)

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