Mediterranean Diet Can Improve Brain Function in Older Adults

The Mediterranean Diet, replete with healthy fats and antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, has been repeatedly shown in studies to contribute to better health. Now, Spanish researchers have found that the diet, enhanced with added olive oil or nuts, can improve brain function in older adults.

Their 2015 study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, involved 334 cognitively healthy men and women volunteers (average age 67) enrolled in a long-term nutritional database. The volunteers were randomly divided to either follow the enhanced Mediterranean diet or, for the purpose of comparison, to get advice on reducing dietary fat. The participants then underwent a series of cognitive tests measuring memory, attention, executive function, and overall brain activity, which was repeated about 4 years later.

After the repeat test, the researchers found that volunteers on the “Super” Mediterranean diet had better scores, while the comparison group had significantly lower scores.

The study was the first clinical trial to validate earlier population studies that have suggested that the Mediterranean diet may delay brainpower decline.

 My Viewpoint: Inflammation from oxidative damage and blood supply impairment are major factors in age-related cognitive decline, a significant risk factor for dementia. So, it’s no wonder that a great diet – already known to be heart healthy – could be additionally effective with added antioxidant-rich ingredients from extra virgin olive oil (1 liter a week) or mixed nuts (30 grams daily).

 What This Means to You: This study provides yet more evidence that a “Super” Mediterranean diet is highly beneficial. Earlier I reported on a study from the same group of Spanish researchers who found the diet offered superior protection against heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

 Recommendation: For years I have prescribed a reinforced Mediterranean diet to patients. I call it the PAM Diet (for Pan-Asian Mediterranean). It features potent food additions from Asian cultures (including seaweed and fermented soy), along with ample extra-virgin olive oil, one of my favorite healing foods. This type of diet offers great support for physical and mental functioning at all ages.

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