Dr. Emilo Ros

A study carried out by the Lipid Unit of the Barcelona Hospital Clinic suggests that high consumption of olive oil, along with other foods rich in antioxidant polyphenols, may improve cognitive function and prevent neurodegenerative diseases. Polyphenols are known to be powerful antioxidants which may help to reverse oxidative damage that occurs in the aging process. This damage is thought to be a causative factor for the development of many lifestyle diseases including, heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to Dr. Emilo Ros, one of the authors of the study recently published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, it is recommended to use olive oil on a daily basis, consumption of nuts four to seven days per week, and drinking 2 glasses of red wine daily for men and one for women.

This style of eating, which falls in line with the Mediterranean Diet pattern, appears to have positive effects not only on brain function but also cardiovascular health.

The study was carried out as part of the multicenter clinical trial PREDIMED, a long-term nutritional intervention study aimed to assess the effects of the Mediterranean diet in the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases. The trial involved over 7,000 subjects, aged between 55 and 80, at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

This particular part of the study, included 447 participants, who were asymptomatic but at high cardiovascular risk, and not following a specific diet. The food intake and cardiovascular profile was assessed and the individuals went through a series of neuropsychological tests to evaluate cognitive function. The researchers also analyzed polyphenol levels in the urine in order to have an objective biomarker of intake.

According to the results, it appears that the consumption of olive oil, particularly extra virgin, was associated with better scores in verbal memory tests, whilst a higher intake of nuts and moderate wine consumption were found to have a positive effect on overall cognitive function.

The results suggest a Mediterranean style diet, high in polyphenols, may protect against the cognitive decline associated with age or diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The Mediterranean eating style is also supported by several epidemiological studies which suggest that foods such as fruit, vegetables and fish, in addition to polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin B and antioxidants have similar effects.

The new findings add to the ever growing evidence of the benefits of a Mediterranean style diet in an increasing number of pathologies and were well received by the president of the Mediterranean Diet Foundation Luis Serra Majem.

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