We’ve written before about the benefits of a Mediterranean diet. We know it has heart-protection benefits, can help prevent cancer and can even help you feel happier in a hurry. Now, a new systematic review has found that eating a Mediterranean diet can even help your brain stay young.1
For this review, Australian researchers identified 18 well-designed studies (controlled clinical trials and prospective population studies) published between 2000 and 2015. The study set included a combined total of almost 60,000 adults, ranging in age from 19 to over 70 years. Each study looked at the potential impact of a Mediterranean diet on attention, memory, decision-making and other cognitive processes over time.
Memory benefits for mature minds
Overall, the studies found that those who stuck to a Mediterranean diet had slower rates of cognitive decline, reduced rates of Alzheimer’s disease, and better memory and recall.
Good news for younger minds and beyond
What’s more, the benefits extended to more than just middle-aged and mature adults. Two of the studies looked at younger adults, aged 19 to 40 years, and found improved cognitive function as well. Another interesting result the researchers found is that the positive cognitive effects were not limited to people living in countries inside what’s considered the Mediterranean region, but were true for those living in countries all over the world.
Targeting age-related inflammation
The researchers theorize the benefits of a Mediterranean diet come from a combination of factors. A big reason is inflammation. The inflammatory process often increases with age, and it’s in large part why brain health declines and chronic disorders like Alzheimer’s can take hold. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce inflammation and the ravages of oxidation, so it may protect against cognitive decline.
What is the Mediterranean diet
You can read more details about the diet and how to incorporate it into your life here. But in essence, the diet consists of
- Eating plenty of plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and other legumes, and nuts.
- Choosing healthy fats like olive or canola oil over butter or other vegetable oils.
- Eating moderate amounts of fish and poultry rather than red meat.
- Eating moderate amounts of dairy (particularly cultured products like yogurt, kefir, and cheese)
- Using plenty of fresh herbs over salt to flavor food.
- Enjoying meals with friends and family.
- Drinking red wine moderately with meals.
If you want even more details, plus recipes on how to make some delicious Mediterranean dishes, order a copy of Good Food, Great Medicine.
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1. Hardman RJ, Kennedy G, Macpherson H, Scholey AB, Pipingas A. Adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet and effects on cognition in adults: a qualitative evaluation and systematic review of longitudinal and prospective trials. Front Nutr. 2016;3:22. Review. PMID: 27500135.