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Does a Healthy Diet also promote a Healthy Mind?

By Shannon Pierce

 

Ah the Mediterranean diet. When you hear of it, you may imagine crunching on fresh vegetables drizzled with olive oil as you look out onto the ocean. Sounds dreamy. We already know the diet is a healthy one because it can help you live longer, decrease your risk of heart disease, and even help decrease the risk of Alzheimers disease.  But can it help out our brains too? A new study suggests it could.

 

If you imagined crunching on cucumbers by the seashore, you weren’t too far off. The diet consists of consuming lots of veggies, olive oil, and not too much meat or dairy.  Eating a handful of nuts a day is another staple of the diet. As Dr. Oz commonly notes, not the kind roasted in honey or loaded with salt, but salt free almonds or mixed nuts do the trick.

 

On Monday, a group of researchers announced information on their recent studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association's JAMA Internal Medicine. They have been monitoring a group of volunteer research participants who were following a Mediterranean diet.  Some of the volunteers added a little extra olive oil, about five tablespoons and nuts to their daily diet while a portion of the participants followed a low fat diet. The Mediterranean diet folks eating the extra nuts and olive oil showed lower risks of stroke and heart disease, lower risk of dying early, compared to the group following a low fat diet. While that information was expected, new evidence suggests that older people who follow the Mediterranean diet may fight “age-related cognitive decline,” or worsening brain function as they age. With the Mediterranean diet, their memory and thinking skills may last longer in life, or even improve.

 

Dr. Emilio Ros of the Institut d'Investigacions Biomediques at Hospital Clinic, Barcelona and colleagues reported the following.

The volunteers, mostly in their 60s, were tested on their memory skills. Those who ate the nuts and olive oil over a period of time performed better on their cognitive tests. Memory had improved over the course of four years, and they also improved in problem-solving and planning skills. The low-fat diet followers actually lost some memory and brain skills.

 

The research shows that the Mediterranean diet may be worth researching for yourself.

 

While the results are encouraging, researchers note that there is much more research to be done.

 


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