Research shows that eating a Mediterranean diet can reduce memory and thinking decline by 24%. The Mediterranean diet, previously prescribed to prevent heart disease and promote weight loss, has also been shown to increase longevity and prevent depression. The Mediterranean diet is a plant-based diet that includes olive oil and red wine. The diet is low in sugar and red meat.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is a diet based on the typical food consumption in the Mediterranean area of southern Europe, mainly Greece and Italy. The diet consists of plentiful servings of vegetables, whole grains and beans. Seafood is eaten twice a week, and limited amounts of dairy and eggs are included. Red meat and sugar are avoided, as is most alcohol consumption, but red wine is allowed. Salt is replaced by flavorful spices, and butter is replaced by olive oil. The Mediterranean diet is high in fiber, antioxidants and healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids. Monounsaturated fats like virgin olive oils are preferred. For dairy, the Mediterranean diet suggests cheese and yogurt, and it also limits eggs to no more than four per week. For dessert, they recommend fresh fruit. Beans and legumes are favored, using lentils and chickpeas dishes like hummus. The Mediterranean diet became popular in the 1990s when it was publicized by Dr. Ancel Key, an American living in Italy at the time.
About the research on Mediterranean diet and memory retention
The five-year long study on Mediterranean diet and memory was conducted on people age 55 and older. Published in the journal, Neurology, the study utilized 27,860 people from 40 different countries. The study’s author was Andrew Smyth of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. The study participants all had a history of either heart disease, stroke, or other peripheral artery disease. Those with recent, acute health conditions were excluded. The participants were given memory and thinking skill tests at the beginning of the study, and then again after two and then at five years. They were questioned about their specific food intake, such as meat, grains, soy, vegetables, fruit, fried foods, and meat, dairy and alcohol consumption. Each participant was studied for five years, or until they experienced a heart attack, stroke, heart failure, or death.
The study showed that those with the healthiest diets had lower cognitive decline. Of the 27,860 people in the study, 4,699 had a memory decline. The study tracked the 5,687 healthiest eaters and found that they had only a 14 percent memory decline, while the others had an 18 percent decline. Study organizer, Andrew Smyth commented, “”Adoption of a healthy diet probably begins early in life, and a healthy diet might also go along with the adoption of other healthy behaviors.”
Other benefits of the Mediterranean diet
Other benefits of the Mediterranean diet include a reduction in the number of strokes. An Italian study stated that those on the diet had a better health-related quality of life (HRQL), ostensibly because of the increased dietary fiber as well as the antioxidants. Research in the Archives of Internal Medicine stated that the Mediterranean diet was beneficial for heart health. Other research suggests the diet can slow aging, reduce the risk of stroke and the risk of endometrial cancer. Some research suggests that the diet can prevent diabetes, but this is inconclusive, because the amount of complex carbohydrates is not considered beneficial to many people with insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome.
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