Eating a Mediterranean diet — rich in fish, vegetables, and healthy fats like olive oil — is good for the mind as well as the body, new research shows.
The findings, published by University of Exeter Medical School researchers in the journal Epidemiology
, even suggest such a diet can significantly lower the risk of age-related diseases such as dementia.
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The conclusions are based on an analysis of 12 studies — nine of which clearly showed that people who closely follow a Mediterranean diet have better cognitive function, lower rates of mental decline, and a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease.
"Mediterranean food is both delicious and nutritious, and our systematic review shows it may help to protect the ageing brain by reducing the risk of dementia," said lead researcher Iliana Lourida. "While the link between adherence to a Mediterranean diet and dementia risk is not new, ours is the first study to systematically analyze all existing evidence."
A Mediterranean diet is typically heavy on olive oil, vegetables, fruit, and fish, and contans low levels of meat and dairy products.
"Our review also highlights inconsistencies in the literature and the need for further research," said Lourida. "In particular research is needed to clarify the association with mild cognitive impairment and vascular dementia. It is also important to note that while observational studies provide suggestive evidence we now need randomized controlled trials to confirm whether or not adherence to a Mediterranean diet protects against dementia."
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