12 January - 20 June 2016

The effects of the Mediterranean diet on cognitive impairment

8 May 13

A study published in the journal Neurology has investigated the effects of the Mediterranean diet and risk of cognitive impairment over time.    The Mediterranean diet comprises of the consumption of large amounts of fruit, vegetables and olive oil, and eating few saturated fats, meat and dairy products.  Tsivgoulis et al. used data from around 17,000 participants, with a mean age of 64, who were involved in a US stroke study.  At baseline and during the first year, the participants completed a food frequency questionnaire.  To detect changes in cognitive status and cognitive impairment, cognitive assessment was carried out at baseline and on a yearly basis for four years.  Seventeen percent of the participants had diabetes.  The participants were splits into two categories, low or high adherence to a typical Mediterranean diet.  After taking into account factors associated with new-onset cognitive impairment, Tsivgoulis et al calculated the odds of new onset cognitive impairment in the group with high diet adherence and compared this with the odds of new cognitive impairment in the low adherence group.  The team also assessed how having diabetes influenced the relationship between diet and cognitive impairment.  The study found that participants who reporting having a high adherence to the Mediterranean diet had 13% lower risk of suffering incident cognitive impairment during the study, compared to participants with low diet adherence.  In a separate analysis including 14,758 participants, Tsivgoulis et al found that among people without diabetes, there was a 19% reduced risk for incident cognitive impairment in those with high Mediterranean diet adherence compared with those with low adherence, indicating that the association between a Mediterranean diet and incident cognitive impairment was not significant among people who had diabetes.   The study notes that diets that are high in omega-3 fatty acids are associated with better memory and cognitive function in humans, noting that the Mediterranean diet has plenty of fish, chicken, and salad dressing, all rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

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