You may know that a Mediterranean diet — rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, legumes, whole grains and fish — offers heart-healthy benefits. But a Mediterranean diet may also benefit your brain. Studies show that people who closely follow a Mediterranean diet seem less likely to develop cognitive decline when compared with people who don't follow the diet.
Research shows that a Mediterranean diet may:
- Slow cognitive decline in older adults
- Reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a transitional stage between the cognitive decline of normal aging and the more-serious memory problems caused by dementia or Alzheimer's disease
- Reduce the risk of MCI progressing into Alzheimer's disease
It's unclear why following a Mediterranean diet may protect brain function. Researchers speculate that making healthy food choices may improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels and overall blood vessel health — all factors that may reduce the risk of MCI or Alzheimer's disease.
Studies of the effects of diet on dementia are dependent on the recall of the participants — problematic when some of those studied have memory troubles. More research is needed to know to what degree a Mediterranean diet prevents Alzheimer's or slows the progression of cognitive decline. Nonetheless, eating a healthy diet is important to stay physically and mentally fit.
Feb. 07, 2012
- Scarmeas N, et al. Mediterranean diet and mild cognitive impairment. Archives of Neurology. 2009;66:216.
- Press D, et al. Prevention of dementia. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Nov.11, 2011.
- Feart C, et al. Adherence to a Mediterranean diet, cognitive decline, and risk of dementia. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2009;302:638.
- Gu Y, et al. Food combination and Alzheimer disease risk. Archives of Neurology. 2010;67:6.