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Mediterranean Diet Best for Memory and Brain Health

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Mediterranean Diet and Memory

According to the results of a recent study, eating a Mediterranean diet can help us with memory and brain health. The analysis shows us that good dietary habits play an important role in normal brain function. Consuming a Mediterranean diet is now found to lower our risk of cognitive decline, as well as decreasing the risk of progressing to Alzheimer's disease.

The study, published in the February issue of Archives of Neurology, suggests that a combination of factors help keep our memories sharp. Eating a Mediterranean diet may be beneficial for several reasons, including lower cholesterol, beneficial omega 3 fatty acids from fish, and alcohol, also shown to be beneficial for healthy blood vessels.

Nikolaos Scarmeas, M.D., and colleagues at Columbia University Medical Center, New York conducted an analysis of 1,393 individuals with normal cognition between 1992 and 1999. They also analyzed 482 individuals with mild cognitive decline.

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Of the 1393 individuals with normal brain function and memory, 275 developed difficulty with memory. The segment of the study group adhering closely to a Mediterranean diet had a 28 percent lower risk of cognitive decline. Those who followed a Mediterranean diet in the middle group had a 17 percent lower risk.

The individuals who already showed memory decline and had the highest intake of Mediterranean food had a 48 percent less chance of progressing to Alzheimer's disease, and those in the middle had a 45 percent less chance of Alzheimer's than individuals adhering least to a Mediterranean diet.

This is not the first study to show the health benefits associated with following a Mediterranean diet. Past studies show lower risk of heart disease from transitioning to a Mediterranean diet. Normal brain function is dependent on healthy blood vessels, as is heart health.

The authors of the current study suggest that consuming a Mediterranean diet can reduce inflammation in the blood vessels, keep cholesterol and blood sugar levels in check and reduce the chances of memory decline that can progress to Alzheimer's disease.

Source: archneur.ama-assn.org



The study at hand supports what we already know: The Mediterranean diet protects against onset of dementia. To me, the best news about this study is that the Mediterranean diet seemed to be effective in elderly people. Average age of participants was 77 and average follow-up was 4.5 years. So it doesn't necessarily take 60 years of the diet to prevent cognitive decline. -Steve Parker, M.D.