If you want to reduce your likelihood of developing dementia, it turns out you should pay attention to what is on your plate. A study of senior citizens in Cache County, Utah, began in 1995 and lasted 11 years. The participants’ eating habits were assessed four times during the study. When the investigators analyzed the dietary patterns, they found that people eating a diet similar to the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) scored higher on a cognitive test. So did those whose diets followed a Mediterranean-style eating pattern. The differences were consistent over time, and though they were small, they were statistically significant.
Both DASH and Mediterranean diets are heavy on vegetables and fruits and contain whole grains and legumes. The Mediterranean style diet has more fat in the form of nuts and olive oil, while the DASH diet features more low-fat dairy products. Both diets are low in red meat and contain minimal processed foods. Moderate alcohol consumption is usually included in scoring the Mediterranean diet pattern, but since the vast majority of the Cache County seniors are Mormons, they don’t drink. On the other hand, they also don’t smoke, so neither alcohol nor tobacco use confounded the results. The investigators conclude that diets rich in whole grains, nuts and legumes seem to offer long-lasting cognitive benefits.
Are you interested in eating a DASH diet or following the Mediterranean plan, but confused about how to do so? We have descriptions, practical recommendations and delicious recipes in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies, from National Geographic.