The Mediterranean diet is one that is known to be heart healthy. Study after study has shown that eating a diet that is high in plant foods, such as beans, seeds, nuts, and legumes along with leafy greens, fresh veggies and fruit and low in dairy and red meat is a good way to keep cholesterol levels down and arteries flowing freely. It also relies on olive oil as a main source of fat instead of other oils and fats that can clog up the circulatory system.
The Med Diet is also associated with a slower rate of age related cognitive decline, a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease and in some studies an improvement in cognitive function was shown when people switched to the healthier options like fish and fresh produce. The latest research is really a study of all of the studies. Researchers from the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, VIC, Australia and the Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Deakin University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia evaluated papers written on the subject between 2000 and 2015.
There were over 135 papers and research studies done in this time period but lead author Roy Hardman had strict criteria for including research in his analysis. To ensure that the best research was evaluated, only 18 studies made the cut. Rather than choose only papers that showed a certain result, the focus was on choosing the research that had been conducted with the best methods.
In a press release about the work, Hardman said, "The most surprising result was that the positive effects were found in countries around the whole world. So regardless of being located outside of what is considered the Mediterranean region, the positive cognitive effects of a higher adherence to a MedDiet were similar in all evaluated papers." In other words, it wasn’t about the location or the genetics of the people in a certain geographical area. It was about the diet itself and what it could do for those who followed it.
In most of these well-conducted studies Hardman and his colleagues noted that attention, memory, and language were all improved. Memory was the biggest winner in the data collected. In long-term memory, working memory, delayed recognition and executive function, the stricter the adherence to the diet, the more improvement was seen. This is good news because in many neurodegenerative diseases there is a genetic factor. The research indicates that while no diet can change a person’s DNA, changing nutrition is possible and could offer a chance to reduce the severity of certain symptoms if a person falls ill with dementia, Alzheimer’s or other cognitive disorders.
The list of factors that are impacted by the diet is long. From inflammation to dietary imbalances, lipids, polyphenols in the blood and even to the gut microbiota, the potential for the healthier foods that make up the diet to reduce or eliminate certain risks is significant. Not just for older people either. Of the eighteen studies examined, two included younger adults who also showed cognitive improvement after being on the diet.
The study authors believe that diet will play a role in many diseases and with so much good data on the MedDiet, it seems wise for anyone to move toward an eating plan that limits red meat and dairy and provides better nutrition from fish, fresh produce and certain fats. The video below explains more about eating this way. While there are many diets that become trendy and fade out quickly, the data backs up the benefits of the MedDiet for good brain health.
Sources: Frontiers in Nutrition