The benefits of the Mediterranean diet have long since been touted as beneficial for everything from anti-aging to heart health and even reduced cancer risk, but new studies are showing that the diet has the added potential to improve brain power, even better than a low-fat diet.
Fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains are the foundations of this way of healthy eating but it may be the nuts and added extra virgin olive oil that can be credited to improved brain function, especially in older people, according to a study from the University of Navarra in Spain whose findings were published in the Journal of Neurosurgery and Psychiatry this month.
The studies participants, comprised of 522 men and women between the ages of 55 and 80 who were considered “high risk” patients but did not suffer from heart disease were randomly assigned to follow the Mediterranean diet with added olive oil or mixed nuts, while a control group followed a low-fat diet. After an average of six and a half years, they were all tested for cognitive decline. The average scores on the group who followed the Mediterranean diet were significantly higher than those following a simply low-fat plan.
The Mediterranean diet shuns processed foods or bad fats and embraces fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish and even red wine; all known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties so it is natural to conclude that this way of life is good for the body and for aiding in longevity. While some doctors and scientists in the US are not completely convinced of the studies findings, many agree that the findings are encouraging and worthy of further study.
Dr. Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez, the chairman of preventive medicine at the University of Navarra in Spain and a study author, agrees that the study may not be perfect due to the fact that stacking the typical American diet against the typical Mediterranean diet may not be in direct comparison. However, there is clear evidence that the diet is both beneficial and sustainable. “The quantity of the difference between the groups was small from a clinical point of view, but it was statistically significant,” he said. “The harmony, the combination of all of the micronutrients, when they are combined in traditional Mediterranean cuisine, is very important for the functioning of the central nervous system.”
In addition to the new study findings, we do know that the Mediterranean diet has been proven to have a wealth of health benefits including the protection against type 2 diabetes, prevention of heart disease and stroke and the ability to keep one agile and add both length and quality to one’s lifespan.
For more information on the Mediterranean diet and the new study, click here.