Mediterranean Diet Slashes Risk of Cognitive Decline

Study suggests that the diet may be linked to preserving memory and cognitive abilities

Grilled Chicken SaladThis article originally appeared on Live in the Now.

While many environmental factors contribute to disease progression, diet remains the most influential cofactor in the development of memory and personality-robbing diseases.

Researchers from the University of Alabama report the results of a study suggesting that the Mediterranean diet — emphasizing foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, chicken and salad dressing, and avoiding saturated fats, meat and dairy foods — may be linked to preserving memory and thinking abilities.

Reporting in the prestigious journal, Neurology, scientists explain how limiting sugars, refined carbohydrates and hydrogenated fats help to preserve memory and cognitive abilities through mid-life and into our senior years. Study author, Dr. Georgios Tsivgoulis, noted, “Since there are no definitive treatments for most dementing illnesses, modifiable activities, such as diet, that may delay the onset of symptoms of dementia, are very important.”

To conduct their study, the team analyzed 30,239 people over age 45 for a period of four and one-half years and monitored them regularly for health changes and adherence to a Mediterranean style diet. Participants underwent tests to measure memory and thinking abilities over the study period. The scientists found that those individuals who most closely followed the Mediterranean diet were nineteen percent less likely to develop problems with their thinking and memory skills. Interestingly, the Mediterranean diet was not associated with cognitive decline in people with diabetes.

While the team did not provide an explanation why diabetics did not benefit from this type of diet, one can theorize that diabetes results from years of dietary transgressions and the resulting cellular and metabolic changes require more intense measures to resolve. Dr. Tsivgoulis concluded, “Diet is an important modifiable activity that could help in preserving cognitive functioning in late life, however it is only one of several important lifestyle activities that might play a role in late-life mental functioning. Exercise, avoiding obesity and not smoking cigarettes are also important.”

It should come as no great surprise to those following a natural diet and healthy lifestyle that the foods we eat and the environment in which we live directly influence our risk of developing many chronic illnesses, degree of aging and, ultimately, lifespan. Although considered by many to be a normal part of the aging process, dementia and, specifically, Alzheimer’s disease is not a natural progression as we get older and is largely the product of the type of foods we eat over the course of many decades of life.

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