Can your diet affect your brain health? A recent Spanish study suggests that a Mediterranean Diet can have positive benefits.
Dementia has been a concern for quite some time now as our population ages. Dementia is caused by degeneration or loss of nerve cells in the brain such as in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s and diseases that affect blood vessels, such as stroke, often called vascular dementia.
Research from the University of Navarra reports that a Mediterranean diet consisting of extra virgin olive oil, moderate amounts of fish and seafood, a moderate intake or red wine as well as lots of fruits, vegetables and nuts seemed to improve the brains of older people at risk for vascular dementia when compared to a low fat diet.
The trial consisted of 522 men and women between the ages of 55 and 80 without cardiovascular disease but they were considered at higher risk for vascular disease because of pre-existing conditions such as diabetes type 2, being a smoker, having high blood pressure, and/or having a family history of cardiovascular disease early in life.
The participants were assigned to one of three diet groups. In one group, they followed a Mediterranean diet with added olive oil; the second group followed a Mediterranean diet with added nuts; the third group (the controls) were only given advice on following a low fat diet.
The results? After a followup period of 6 .5 years, the two groups following the Mediterranean diets had brain function scores significantly higher than the control group on the low fat diet. Brain function tests included assessment of memory, attention, language, spacial and abstract thinking.
The authors concluded: “An intervention with Med Diets enhanced with either extra virgin olive oil or nuts appears to improve cognition compared with a low-fat diet.” This study was published in the May issue (2013) of the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.