Mediterranean diet may curb memory problems later in life

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Researchers have documented that a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fish, whole grains, along with daily servings of nuts and olive oil can help fend off age-related cognitive decline.

The study, which appears in JAMA Internal Medicine, compared the brain health of groups of older people in Spain (in their 60s and 70s) who were enrolled in a randomized clinical trial.

One group was assigned to eat a Mediterranean diet, plus either extra daily servings of extra-virgin olive oil (about four tablespoons) or daily servings of nuts. Another group was assigned to eat a lower-fat diet.

During the study, researchers gave the men and women a battery of cognitive tests to gauge various aspects of brain health, from working memory to processing speed to executive function. After about four years, the tests were repeated a second time.

“What we see here is that the control diet group [the people eating the lower-fat diet] worsened on their cognitive tests,” Emilio Ros, a researcher at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona and the lead author of the study, says.

By comparison, the people following the nut-and-oil-rich Mediterranean diet held steady on their cognitive test scores. In other words, their memories did not get significantly better, but there was no measurable age-related decline either.

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