According to researchers, the Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, fish, and vegetables, and moderate in alcohol and wine, is linked to a slower rate of cognitive decline in older individuals.
Every 3 years, the 3,759 individuals aged 65 and older who were involved in the study, had a cognitive assessment which tested things like basic math skills and memory. Individuals also completed a questionnaire on how frequent with 139 food items were consumed, which ranged from olive and oil cereals to alcohol and red meat.
How closely each of the individuals followed a Mediterranean diet was then analyzed, which included daily consumption of foods such as vegetables, fruit, legumes, fish, olive oil, non refined cereals and potatoes, as well as wine.
The average individual scored 28 out of a maximum score of 55, the maximum score indicating complete adherence to the Mediterranean diet. Individuals having higher scores were also those who showed a slower rate of decline in cognitive tests, even when other factors, like education level, which could account for the result, were considered.
How closely individuals followed the Healthy Eating Index-2005, based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations, was also analyzed. Higher scores which indicate stricter adherence to this index, giving less weight to legumes, fish, and moderate alcohol intake, didn’t correspond with differences in cognitive decline rates.
The results add to other research showing that a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of certain cancers, diabetes and heart disease. The more olive oil, vegetables and fish are incorporated into our diets and moderate wine consumption, the more aging bodies and brains benefit.