According to a recently published study in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease (JAD), some foods that are often part of the Mediterranean diet benefit both your body and your brain.
Researchers studied 447 people between the ages of 55-80. These people were part of a study that was already being conducted called PREDIMED (PREvencion con DIeta MEDiterranea). PREDIMED is a multi-year study of the Mediterranean diet and its effect on individuals who are at a high cardiovascular risk due to a history of smoking, a higher BMI, high blood pressure, or other risk factors.
Participants agreed to several cognitive assessments that measured different aspects of memory, language, and overall cognitive functioning. According to the JAS, here are some of the findings:
- Total olive oil increased immediate verbal memory. Immediate memory refers to the ability to repeat information that was just presented; some clinicians refer to this as short-term memory.
- Virgin olive oil and coffee improved delayed verbal memory (the ability to retrieve information presented longer than 30 seconds ago).
- Walnuts (not any other nuts) were highly correlated with improved working memory, the application and use of information.
- Moderate wine consumption increased scores on the Mini-Mental State Examination, a test that assessed overall cognitive functioning.
A Mediterranean diet is generally higher in fruits, vegetables, fish, unsaturated fatty acids, and other antioxidants, and often includes moderate wine intake. While some previous research has alluded to possible benefits of these foods, the results of this study are quite significant. Specifically, the benefits related to virgin olive oil and walnuts were highlighted as "novel", not having been scientifically demonstrated previously.
Researchers expressed hope that this type of diet will counter-act the trend of cognitive decline associated with aging and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia.