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Mediterranean diet linked to improved memory

Published on 01 May 2013 10:30 AM

Memory and the ability to think clearly can be improved by eating a Mediterranean diet, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in dairy food and red meat, a study shows.


Researchers analysed the eating habits of 17,478 people with an average age of 64. Participants were then tested for their mental ability over an average timespan of four years.

One in 14 (7%) showed signs that their memory and thinking ability deteriorated over the 4-year period. But researchers found that those who most closely stuck to a Mediterranean-style diet had their risk of mental deterioration cut by around a fifth (19%).

The role of diet in preserving cognitive functioning in later life

Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in oily fish, pulses, walnuts and flax seed - all foods known to benefit the nervous system and the brain. People in the Mediterranean region also typically eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables in a diet that generally has little saturated fat.

Georgios Tsivgoulis, the lead researcher who works out of both Athens and Alabama universities, said: 'Since there are no definitive treatments for most dementing illnesses, modifiable activities such as diet that may delay the onset of symptoms of dementia are very important.

'Diet is an important modifiable activity that could help in preserving cognitive functioning in late life. However, it is only one of several important lifestyle activities that might play a role in late-life mental functioning.

'Exercise, avoiding obesity, not smoking cigarettes and taking medications for conditions like diabetes and hypertension are also important.'

Eating a Mediterranean diet has wide health benefits

Other recent research also highlights the health benefit of eating better food. The Mediterranean diet is shown to reduce incidence of heart attacks, stroke and death by around a third, in people at high risk of heart disease.

A major clinical trial, the results of which appear in the New England Journal of Medicine, has shown that even small changes in the balance of food eaten can lessen health risks. This was the first study that tested the effects of such a diet on a group of people at high risk of stroke and heart attacks.

Copyright Press Association 2013

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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