A group of Greek researchers conducted a review of 22 studies and found that adherence to a Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of stroke, depression, cognitive impairment, and Parkinson disease.
The study published in the journal Annals of Neurology lead by Theodora Psaltopoulou, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at the University of Athens School of Medicine, was a meta-analysis of eligible studies that covered stroke, Parkinson’s disease, cognitive impairment and depression. The researchers found that high adherence to the Mediterranean diet was consistently associated with reduced risk of stroke, depression and cognitive impairment. Moderate adherence was associated mostly with a reduced risk of depression and cognitive impairment but not so much for stroke.
The researchers mention that for depression, the protective effects of high adherence to the diet appeared independent of age, but this protective effect was less when there was moderate adherence and older age.
One of the most interesting findings was that the protective effect from depression was observed in both Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean countries.
While the Mediterranean diet is known for being heart healthy, several studies have shown that this eating pattern can protect from various diseases of the brain. Some studies attribute this protective effect to the consumption of foods rich in antioxidants such as olive oil, fruit, vegetables and nuts while others also see benefits of individual foods in the Mediterranean diet such as extra virgin olive oil and walnuts.