Can Adhering to a Mediterranean Diet Lower the Risk of Cognitive Impairment?

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More reason to follow a Mediterranean-style diet: It’s good for the brain, suggests an analysis of data from nearly 8,000 U.S. adults, ages 50 to 85, who participated in the Age‐Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS and AREDS2).

Researchers found that study participants whose diets most adhered to a Mediterranean-style eating pattern at baseline—with lots of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, legumes, and olive oil; little red meat; and moderate alcohol—scored higher on tests of cognitive function over the next two to 10 years than those whose diets adhered the least.

High intake of fish and vegetables in particular was linked to better cognitive function. In addition, fish—but not the Mediterranean diet overall—was associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline over five to 10 years. The findings were reported in 2019 in Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

Bottom line: There are many other good reasons to follow a Mediterranean-style diet, including a lower risk of heart attack and stroke and possibly increased longevity. If you’re already following a Mediterranean-style diet, the findings in this study may be more good news. If you’re not, they offer one more incentive to boost your intake of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, legumes, and olive oil; cut down on red meat; and drink alcohol in moderation.