Mediterranean diet could protect memory by preventing brain damage

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Consuming a Mediterranean diet could help keep thinking and memory intact, by protecting the brain from damage. Small brain infarcts (death of tissue and brain cells), that occur with aging, were found less frequently among individuals who follow a Mediterranean diet.

Scientists explored the effect of eating a Mediterranean diet and brain damage among 712 individuals. The diet includes eating fruits, nuts, vegetables, beneficial fats like olive oil, and moderate alcohol in addition to cereals and fish. Lower intake of red meat, dairy and poultry is also a part of the diet and likely responsible for some of the beneficial health effects.

The study group was split into three groups based on how closely they followed a Mediterranean diet. Those who ate mostly Mediterranean foods were found to have thirty six percent fewer areas of brain damage from cerebral infract compared to individuals who followed the diet less strictly.


Among individuals who did not follow a strict Mediterranean diet, the chances of brain damage from infarct was twenty one percent less compared to the group who ate the fewest types of Mediterranean foods.

Study author Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD, MSc, of Columbia University Medical Center in New York and a member of the American Academy of Neurology says, "In this study, not eating a Mediterranean-like diet had about the same effect on the brain as having high blood pressure."

The authors speculate that the reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease associated with a Mediterranean diet, found in prior studies, may be because it keep the brain healthier by preventing damage from tissue death associated with small areas of infarct. Eating a Mediterranean diet could also extend the lives of patients already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, has also been shown to extend lifespan in the general population, and is now is linked to protecting thinking and memory.

American Academy of Neurology