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Mediterranean and MIND Diets May Lower Risk of Memory Problems

Memory and attention skills tend to decline as we age. A recent study suggests that eating food that is included in both the Mediterranean and the MIND diets may reduce the risk of developing memory difficulties later in life.


The Mediterranean diet is characterized by high amounts of vegetables, legumes, cereals, fish, fruits and nuts, healthy mono-saturated fats such as olive oil, low amounts of saturated fats, moderate alcohol intake, and low intake of meat and dairy products.


The MIND diet is version of the Mediterranean diet that includes 15 different types of foods. Green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, seafood, poultry, olive oil, and wine are classified as healthy for the brain. Red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries, sweets and fried/fast foods are classified as unhealthy for the brain.


Participants in the study included 5,907 people with a mean age of 67 who took part in the Health and Retirement Study. All of the participants completed food frequency questionnaires, after which researchers examined their cognitive abilities, focusing on memory and attention.


After comparing the participants’ diets to their performance on the cognitive tests, the researchers found that following a Mediterranean or MIND-style diet was associated with 35% lower risk of scoring poorly on cognitive tests, when compared with participants who followed other diets. They also found that following even a moderate Mediterranean-style diet was associated with a 15% lower risk of a lower score on the cognitive tests. Similar results were found in people who followed the MIND diet.


Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, led the study. It was published online ahead of print on April 25, 2017, in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.


Previous research has shown that the Mediterranean diet and other similar diets may improve heart health, lower the risk of diabetes, asthma, lower rates of obesity and possibly even decrease the overall risk of mortality.

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