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Mediterranean Diet May Prevent Memory Loss: A Study

May 02, 2013 02:11 PM EDT

A Mediterranean diet may stave off memory decline linked to aging, according to a recent study published in the journal Neurology.

In all, researchers examined over 1,200 cases of incident cognitive impairment (ICI) from a larger sample of 17,478 participants.

In doing so, scientists found that those who followed a diet typified by foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as plant products and olive oil, and that avoided saturated fats, showed 13 percent lower odds of ICI over a 4-year period, regardless of ethnicity.

Other benefits included longer life as well as a lower risk of conditions such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and dementia.

The study is the largest to date to link healthy eating and cognitive functioning, though not the first.

In 2009, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that a diet heavy in fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, and light in red meat and poultry may protect against cognitive decline.

“We know that some part of Alzheimer’s disease is related to genetic changes and as time goes on we discover more and more of these changes,” lead investigator Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas told MedPage at the time. “But it is also possible that nongenetic changes, including lifestyle and behavior, may also be affecting our brain function and our brain health and risk for getting diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”

The study looked at 1,410 adults over the age of 65 over a five year period, during which time 99 cases of dementia occurred.

In all, the study found that for patients who had a high adherence to such a Mediterranean diet, risk of Alzheimer’s decreased by 40 percent, though researchers did not find a significant decrease for an “average level” of adherence to the diet.

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