Study strengthens link between diet and brain health

The Mediterranean diet, which places an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, olive oil and fish, has long been touted for its numerous health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, those who follow the diet enjoy a reduced risk of heart disease and may also lower their chances of developing cancer and Parkinson’s disease. Now, a new review of previous research found compelling evidence that eating a Mediterranean diet may help seniors stave of cognitive decline and dementia.

Convincing results
To assess the impact the diet has on cognitive health, researchers from the University of Exeter’s Medical School reviewed 12 previously conducted studies. The team found that in nine of the 12 trials, participants who adhered to the diet saw a lower rate of cognitive decline and were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers say that while there have been previous studies touting the link, their findings strengthen the relationship and offer seniors an easy to way to protect their brains.

“Mediterranean food is both delicious and nutritious, and our systematic review shows it may help to protect the ageing brain by reducing the risk of dementia,” said lead researcher Iliana Lourida. “While the link between adherence to a Mediterranean diet and dementia risk is not new, ours is the first study to systematically analyze all existing evidence.”

Strong diet-mind relationship
This is not the first time scientists have found a strong relationship between what a person eats and their cognitive function. There are many nutrients that have an impact on mental health, according to previous research. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, omega-3 fatty acids are particularly helpful at staving of age-related cognitive decline, and there are many ways for seniors to add omega-3 to their diet.

Additionally, eliminating certain foods from one’s diet can have an impact. Saturated fats in particular may put seniors at the greatest risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. A study released earlier this year from the Wake Forest School of Medicine found that people who ate a diet high in saturated fats often experienced elevated levels of amyloid beta proteins in the brain, which are closely associated with development of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive problems, according to findings published in JAMA Neurology,