The new findings add to the mounting evidence that suggests a Mediterranean-style diet has benefits for cognitive functioning later in life. For the study, researchers tested the thinking skills of more than 500 people aged 79. None of the participants had dementia.
Each participant was required to complete tests involving problem-solving, thinking speed, memory, and word knowledge. They were also directed to fill out a questionnaire about their eating habits during the previous year. More than half the participants also underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan to test for their brain structure.
Researchers used statistical models to look for associations between participant diet habits, thinking skills, and brain health later in life.
It was found that, in general, participants who followed a Mediterranean-style diet had the highest cognitive function scores. Results were adjusted for childhood IQ, physical activity, smoking, and other related health factors. These differences were small but statistically significant.
Dr. Janie Corley concluded the study by saying: “Eating more green leafy vegetables and cutting down on red meat might be two key food elements that contribute to the benefits of the Mediterranean-style diet. In our sample, the positive relationship between a Mediterranean diet and thinking skills is not accounted for by having a healthier brain structure, as one might expect. Though it’s possible there may be other structural or functional brain correlates with this measure of diet, or associations in specific regions of the brain, rather than the whole brain, as measured here.”
No Relationship to Better Brain Health
While the study did find a link between diet and thinking skills, it didn’t find a connection to better brain health. Researchers also note that gray- and white-matter volume, markers of healthy brain aging, didn’t differ between those regularly eating a plant-based diet and those who didn’t.
A Mediterranean diet has been found to have many health benefits for overall health and many experts believe it is one of the best ways to eat to stay healthy. In fact, it has been credited as the reason why so many southern European regions have such high life expectancy.
Sarah Cownley earned a diploma in Nutritional Therapy from Health Sciences Academy in London, England, and she enjoys helping others by teaching healthy lifestyle changes through her personal consultations and with her regular contributions to the Doctors Health Press. This article was originally published on Bel Marra Health.