The Mediterranean diet is known to have many health benefits for the body, particularly for the heart. Now, the findings of a new study have suggested that this diet could hold benefits for the brain too.
The study, which is now published in JAMA Internal Medicine, included 447 men and women between 55 to 80 years of age. The researchers attempted to see how this diet could improve the performance on cognitive tests.
All the study volunteers were healthy, but were either involved in smoking, or were suffering from hypertension or had a family history of heart disease.
The study subjects were randomly asked to follow either a Mediterranean diet with 1 liter extra virgin olive oil a week, a Mediterranean diet with 30 gm of extra nuts a day, or a simple low fat diet for a period of around 4 years.
The researchers then conducted a series of tests noting brain functioning at the start of the study and at the end.
They found that the groups who followed any of the two types of Mediterranean diet had improvements in their brain test scores. However, it was revealed that those who consumed more of olive oil had better memory scores than those who consumed more nuts, and those in the low fat diet group actually showed a decline in cognitive measures.
“It’s never too late to change your dietary patterns to improve your health,” the researchers say. “This surprised even myself.”
These findings are encouraging considering that most of the people in the study were at a high risk of developing cognitive problems due to their risk of stroke and heart disease.
“If you intervene with a healthy dietary pattern in people who are at risk of cognitive failure, even in people who still haven’t had any memory complaints or loss of cognitive function, you can prevent cognitive deterioration,” they added.
These findings also clearly point out to the benefits of the Mediterranean diet which contains antioxidant rich foods, which help improve brain function and reduce the damage occurring due to free radicals.
“I think these results contribute to our understanding of healthy aging,” the researchers concluded. “With a change in lifestyle as simple making some healthy choices in your food, it can make a difference.”