Could a Mediterranean-style diet help preserve cognitive function in older individuals? Research from Minnesota suggests that eating pattern might help delay dementia, even though Rochester, MN, is far from the Mediterranean.
The Mayo Clinic scientists examined data from 672 older people who were healthy and had no cognitive impairment in 2004, at the start of the study. The volunteers answered extensive questionnaires about their eating habits and took a battery of cognitive tests. The researchers also got multiple MRI images of each participant’s brain so they could evaluate the structure and how that might relate to diet.
Managing a Mediterranean-Style Diet in the Midwestern US:
Dietary patterns were analyzed to see if they included fish, legumes, nuts, whole grains, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats as the Mediterranean diet does. Those whose diets most resembled the Mediterranean pattern scored higher on the tests and had a thicker cortex in most regions of the brain.
Because this is an observational study rather than a randomized controlled trial, the authors don’t claim that there is a causal relationship. They do suggest, though, that elderly people (and maybe the rest of us) might do well to boost their intake of legumes, vegetables and fish and minimize the amount of simple sugars and refined carbohydrates they eat.
If you would like to learn more about how to follow a Mediterranean-style diet yourself, you may be interested in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies, which has a specific description and a number of recipes. To delay dementia and stay sharp as long as possible, you should also get regular exercise and avoid medications that can impair cognitive function.