In a new study, researchers found a healthy Mediterranean diet may help keep the aging brain sharp.
The diet includes olive oil, beans, nuts, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, with chicken and fish largely replacing red meat. Dairy products and eggs are only used in low to moderate amounts.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Edinburgh.
Nutritionists have long touted the benefits of the diet on various facets of health, including heart health.
In the study, the team tested the cognitive ability of over 500 people averaging 79 years of age, none of whom showed any signs of dementia.
The tests focused on problem-solving, thinking speed, memory, and word knowledge, and the researchers also obtained MRI brain scans of over 350 of the participants.
Participants were also asked to fill out questionnaires on what their typical diets were over the past year.
The team found that people who adhered more closely to the Mediterranean diet tended to perform better in cognitive tests.
The diet was positively linked to improved performance in specific brain functions, such as memory, verbal ability, and visuospatial ability (people’s ability to analyze and mentally alter objects).
The strongest association seen was between diet and verbal ability. However, the Mediterranean diet had no effects on the brain’s structure as shown on the MRIs.
Researchers say the Mediterranean diet is rich in nutrients like magnesium or folate and may reduce inflammation.
In addition, healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, appear to play in keeping the brain and body functioning at their best.
These healthy fats, which are found in high amounts in the Mediterranean diet, help reduce inflammation in the body.
This helps to protect blood vessels, and it’s not just blood vessels that lead to the heart, but blood vessels that lead to the brain and everywhere else in the body.
One author of the study is Janie Corley.
The study is published in the journal Experimental Gerontology.
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