Several studies have pointed to the Mediterranean diet as having a protective effect against decline of cognitive function that often comes with aging, however, until just recently, there was no systematic review of the research.
A group of researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School analyzed twelve studies that examined the relationship between cognitive function and the Mediterranean diet. The review published in the July issue of the journal Epidemiology, showed that in nine out of the twelve studies, higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with better cognitive function, lower rates of cognitive decline and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Previous studies have shown that the consumption of foods rich in antioxidants such as olive oil, fruit, vegetables and nuts are associated with better cognitive performance. This effect is seen with a Mediterranean diet pattern as a whole, but also for specific foods independently. For example walnuts have been found to be associated with better working memory and olive oil with immediate verbal memory.
The researchers of this particular review noted that while observational studies provide suggestive evidence, randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm whether or not adherence to a Mediterranean diet protects against dementia.
- Epidemiology: Lourida L, et al. Mediterranean Diet, Cognitive Function, and Dementia: A Systematic Review
- University of Exeter: Research confirms Mediterranean diet is good for the mind
- Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease: Valls-Pedret C, et al. Polyphenol-Rich Foods in the Mediterranean Diet are Associated with Better Cognitive Function in Elderly Subjects at High Cardiovascular Risk