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Mediterranean Diet Linked With Slower Cognitive Decline

A new study has found that participants who follow the Mediterranean diet may have slower decline in mental functioning than those who follow a Western diet. This was especially true for people who carried the genetic marker APOE4, which is a sign of increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The Mediterranean diet is based on the eating habits of people in the Mediterranean region of the world. It consists of a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. Additionally, this diet has a very limited amount of refined grains, saturated fats, and sugars.

527 healthy older adults who participated in the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers, and Lifestyle Study of Aging and who had completed the Cancer Council of Victoria Food Frequency Questionnaire took part in the study. The 74-item questionnaire is a report on daily food intake over the year prior to participation in the study.

The participants also underwent neuropsychological testing at the onset of the study, at the 18 month mark, and at 36 months.

After controlling for a number of lifestyle factors, the researchers found that male participants who followed a Mediterranean diet had notable improvements in mental functioning. The results were particularly notable in those with the APOE4 gene.

Participants that adhered to a Western diet high in red meat, processed foods and refined grains showed a significantly increased risk of decline in visual and spatial functioning.

Researchers from the Edith Cowan University in Western Australia conducted the study. It was presented at the 2013 Society for Neuroscience conference, which was held from November 9-13, 2013, in San Diego.
Previous research has shown that the Mediterranean diet may improve heart health, lower the risk of diabetes, asthma, lower rates of obesity and even decrease the overall risk of mortality.

The key components of the Mediterranean diet are eating primarily plant-based foods, replacing butter with olive oil, using herbs and spices instead of salt, eating red meat no more than a few times a month, eating fish and poultry at least twice a week.

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