Mediterranean diet can help protect the brain and improve memory performance

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Mediterranean diet

A Mediterranean diet typically involves fruits, vegetables and fish, and a slower consumption of dairy, red meat, and sugars. Over the past 15 years, much research evidence shows that such a diet may help reduce risks of heart diseases, cancer, metabolic syndrome, and dementia.

In a recent review, scientists find that a Mediterranean diet may improve daily memory performance. The paper is published in Frontiers in Nutrition.

Researchers from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia and Deakin University in Australia conducted the scientific review. They focused longitudinal studies that tested how a Mediterranean diet may impact cognitive functions in adults over time.

Researchers included studies that used either a food questionnaire or a food diary. These tools recorded people’s daily eating behavior. A total of 18 studies were included in the review. These studies also measured people’s cognitive performance.

Researchers found that eating a Mediterranean diet was associated with slower rates of cognitive decline, reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and improvements in cognitive functions.

Importantly, the specific cognitive functions that were found to benefit with improved Mediterranean diet were memory, executive functions, and visual functions.

Executive functions include attention control, reasoning, problem solving, planning, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility.

Researchers suggest that a healthy diet, such as Mediterranean diet, may be essential to maintain quality of life and reduce the potential social and economic burden of dementia.

To start a Mediterranean diet, people can replace butter with healthy oils as often as possible, increase protein intake, eat vegetables and fruits every day, eat whole-grain bread, snack on nuts, seeds or low-fat cheese, drink less alcohol, and eat slowly.


Citation: Hardman RJ, et al. (2016). Adherence to a Mediterranean-Style Diet and Effects on Cognition in Adults: A Qualitative Evaluation and Systematic Review of Longitudinal and Prospective Trials. Frontiers in Nutrition, 3. doi:10.3389/fnut.2016.00022.
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