The ‘Mediterranean diet’ of fish, poultry, vegetables and fruit, and minimal dairy foods and meat, may be good for the brain according to a new study by a consortium of medical researchers in Europe and the US.
Researchers prospectively followed 17,478 mentally healthy men and women 45 years and older, gathering data on diet from food questionnaires, and testing mental function with a well-validated six-item screening tool. They ranked their adherence to the Mediterranean diet on a 10-point scale, dividing the group into low adherence and high adherence.
In a follow-up four years later, 7.1% of the group (1,248 people) became cognitively impaired. But those with high adherence to the diet were 19% less likely to be among them. This association persisted even after taking account of a range of demographic, environmental and vascular risk factors. It was also consistent across different ethnicities.
The study included 2,913 with Type 2 diabetes but adherence to the diet had no effect on the likelihood of cognitive impairment.
The lead author, Dr Georgios Tsivgoulis, said the Mediterranean diet has benefits in terms of cardiovascular disease, cancer risk, anti-inflammatory conditions and the central nervous system. “We’re on the tip of the iceberg and trying to understand what is below,” he said.
The study was published in the journal Neurology in April.