Mediterranean Diet May Help Maintain Brain Health

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Elderly people who follow a Mediterranean-style diet may benefit from better brain health and a lower risk for cognitive impairment later in life, according to a new US study.

“It suggests that a healthy dietary pattern and specific dietary components have impact on biomarkers of brain pathology,” senior researcher Rosebud Roberts of the Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in Rochester, Minnesota, told Reuters Health by email.

A Mediterranean-style diet includes fish, lean meat, legumes, nuts, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. The diet has been linked to better heart and bone health.

Roberts and colleagues analyzed data from 672 participants in the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. At the start, none of the participants had dementia, and they weren’t in hospice or terminally ill. Residents from Olmsted County, Minnesota, entered the study in 2004, at ages 70 to 89.

Participants described their diets in a survey and underwent tests for memory, executive function, language, visual-spatial skills and cognitive impairment. Researchers also used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the cortical thickness of several regions of the brain.

Roberts and colleagues found that elderly patients with higher Mediterranean diet scores had higher cortical thickness in all lobes in the brain. Higher legume and fish intake, in particular, was associated with greater thickness, they reported July 25 in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia.