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Mediterranean Diet, Cognitive Function and Dementia

A group in the UK conducted a systematic review of the literature currently available concerning the possible relationship between the Mediterranean diet, cognitive function and dementia. After analyzing the available research they found that most published studies (9 out of 12) suggest greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with slower mental decline and decreased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. More research is needed to clarify the relationship of the Med Diet with vascular dementia and mild cognitive impairment.

Epidemiology. 2013; 24(4):479-489. (Lourida et al.)

Polyphenol-rich Med Diet Foods Benefit Cognition

As part of the PREDIMED Trial, scientists in Spain studied 447 elderly men and women at high cardiovascular risk to find possible associations between polyphenol-rich foods common to the Mediterranean Diet and better cognitive function. They found that overall consumption of anti-oxidant-rich foods was associated with better cognitive performance, and that olive oil, coffee, and walnuts were especially associated with cognitive health.
Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2012 April; 29(4):773-82. [Valis-Pedret et al.]

Higher Quality of Life with Med Diet

While many studies assessing the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet are carried out with older adults, the SUN project in Spain studies recent university graduates largely in their middle- or late-thirties. After four years of follow-up, researchers at the University of Las Palmas found that a higher adherence to the Mediterranean Diet was significantly associated with better physical health (vitality, bodily pain, general health) and with most measures of mental health (social and emotional functioning).
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012 March; 66(3):360-8. [Henríquez Sánchez et al.]

Elderly Women Stay Independent Longer, with Med Diet

We all want to live to a ripe old age, without pain and disability. While previous studies have shown that greater adherence to a Mediterranean Diet is linked to longer life and reduced risk for cognitive problems, scientists in France set out to study whether the Med Diet could also contribute to seniors’ ability to fend off physical disability and live independently longer. To do so, they followed 1410 elderly adults for more than five years. While they did not find a link for men, the researchers found that women eating a diet closest to the traditional Med pattern enjoyed a 50% lower risk of being unable to take care of their own daily needs.

European Journal of Epidemiology, August 28, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]

Omega-3s in Med Diet Protect Brain Health

Consistent research shows that the Med Diet helps us keep our wits about us as we age. But what explains this connection? A new French study of 1050 elderly subjects showed a strong correlation between adherence to the Med Diet and higher blood levels of healthy fats. In conclusion, the scientists credited the better cognitive function of those eating the Med way to higher levels of DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) and lower ratios of omega-6s to omega-3s.
British Journal of Nutrition, February 2011. 8:1-10 [Epub ahead of print]

Med Diet Slows Brain Aging

Cognitive decline is not inevitable as we age, and in fact a new study shows that eating a Mediterranean Diet can make your mental age years younger. Researchers in Chicago studied the dietary habits of 4,000 Midwesterners aged 65 and older, and scored them for adherence to either the Med Diet or the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. They then tested the people every three years for skills including word memory and math. Those who scored highest on the MedDiet scale – by enjoying fish, legumes, vegetables, wine, fruit and olive oil regularly – had slower cognitive decline over time, while those scoring higher on the Dietary Guidelines scale showed no advantage in keeping their wits about them. (Related article).
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. December 22, 2010 [Epub ahead of print]

Mediterranean Diet May Help Keep You Smarter

Reading, writing and researching can bulk up your brain, but did you know that your diet could make you smarter? Eating a Mediterranean-style diet — one rich in olive oil, whole grains, fish and fruit — may protect aging brains from damage linked to cognitive problems, new research finds. Dr. Nikolas Scarmeas, an associate professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center, New York City, and his colleagues have already shown that a Mediterranean Diet could help lower the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and might lengthen the life of those who have the disease. In his latest study, he may have found out why. After studying a group of male and female participants averaging 80 years of age, he determined that those who most closely followed the Mediterranean Diet had fewer incidents of stroke and brain infarcts – tissue that has died because of reduced or cut-off blood supply. Those who adhered to the Mediterranean Diet to the highest degree lowered their risk of such damage by up to 36%. (Related article).

Presentation at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting, April 10-17, 2010.

Med Diet: Keeping Your Brain Healthy

A study conducted by the Columbia University Medical Center examined the association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) among 1393 multi-ethnic participants.  Using Cox proportional hazards, the association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet (0-9 scale) and the incidence of MCI, as well as the progression of MCI to Alzheimer’s disease was assessed.  The models were all adjusted for age, sex, ethnicity, education, genotype, caloric intake, body mass index, and duration between baseline dietary assessment and baseline dietary diagnosis.  The study concludes that a higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet correlates to a reduced risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and reduced risk of MCI conversion to Alzheimer’s disease.
Archives of Neurology 2009 Feb; 66(2):216-25 (Scarmeas et al.)
 

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