Posted on Aug 30, 2016, 6 a.m.
New review concludes that those who follow the Mediterranean diet are less likely to experience cognitive decline and to develop Alzheimer's disease.
The journal, "Frontiers in Nutrition", contains important findings from researchers at Melbourne, Australia’s Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at the Swinburne University of Technology. Roy Harman, the lead author, together with his team, state that the Mediterranean diet might not be limited to just heart health, but may also be good for the brain and have significant benefits that can help protect against cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s in seniors. In fact, both younger and older adults experience benefits to their cognition, as well as improvements in their long term and working memory, in delayed recognition, and in their attention span by following a Mediterranean diet. Cognition is defined as the activities of thinking, understanding, remembering, and learning. The researchers identified 135 studies that were conducted between 2000 and 2015 that explored how the Mediterranean diet particularly affects cognitive function long-term through completion of food diaries and a number of tests.
The Mediterranean diet has long been considered to be the best eating plan for a healthy heart by lowering the risk of heart disease with the reduction of levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol. The diet’s emphasis is on a higher intake of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and whole grains while eating poultry or fish at least twice a week, using spices and herbs instead of salt for flavoring, limiting red meat, and replacing butter with healthy fats like olive oil.
Reducing total fat intake has been considered a key for reducing obesity, and the World Health Organization (WHO) had recommended that to avoid gaining weight, the total daily fat intake should not exceed 30 percent of the total daily intake of calories. That fueled the perception that all fats are unhealthy and led to a reduction in the consumption of fat. However, this decrease in fat intake has failed to reduce rates of obesity which have more than doubled worldwide since 1980 and have increased the risk for stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
The Mediterranean diet is high in vegetable fats, however, like those in nuts and olive oil and has a multitude of good benefits, some of which are listed below. New research has suggested that a diet low in fat is not more successful for weight loss compared to a Mediterranean diet which is high in vegetable fats. This provides additional evidence that it is the type of fat rather than the amount of total fat that influences weight gain. The benefits of the Mediterranean diet include a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality, improvement in vitamin and mineral imbalances, increasing micronutrients, improving cellular energy metabolism, improving polyphenols in the blood, reducing inflammatory responses, maintaining weight and the potential of reducing obesity, possibly changing the gut microbiota, and others. In addition, identifying ways to maintain the quality of life and reduce the economic and social burdens of illness in the older population is of great importance, and it is believed that adopting the Mediterranean diet is one such valuable strategy.
Adherence to a mediterranean-style diet and effects on cognition in adults: a qualitative evaluation and systematic review of longitudinal and prospective trials, Roy Hardman et al., Frontiers in Nutrition, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2016.00022, published online 22 July 2016.