Several recent studies have highlighted the positive effects of the Mediterranean diet on lowering the risk of a number of illnesses like cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes, as well as contributing to weight loss, and improving cognitive function.
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A recent study published in the open-access journal, Frontiers in Nutrition, evaluated 135 studies published between 2000 and 2015 that examined how the Mediterranean diet impacts cognitive function.
The team of researchers from Swinburne University of Technology and Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia selected 18 of these studies according to strict inclusion criteria which were then subject to a systematic review.
The selected studies included a number of different study designs, and examined study participants from the ages of 19 years to over 75 in countries all over the world. Of the 18 research studies, 13 concluded that following a Mediterranean diet was related to slower cognitive decline, a lower risk of Alzheimer’s, and improved brain function.
The Mediterranean Diet refers to the traditional diet followed in many countries of southern Europe, and is characterized by a high consumption of fruits, vegetables, and legumes, including olive oil as the main source of fat, and a low intake of dairy and animal protein.
In a press release, Roy Hardman, one of the study’s authors, explained why a higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet is related to a slowing of cognitive decline:
“The MedDiet offers the opportunity to change some of the modifiable risk factors. These include reducing inflammatory responses, increasing micronutrients, improving vitamin and mineral imbalances, changing lipid profiles by using olive oils as the main source of dietary fats, maintaining weight and potentially reducing obesity, improving polyphenols in the blood, improving cellular energy metabolism and maybe changing the gut micro-biota, although this has not been examined to a larger extent yet.”
The Australian study concluded that further focused research is needed in view of the aging population, and that the Mediterranean diet is essential to maintaining quality of life, and reducing the social and economic burdens of dementia.