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  • Mediterranean diet: good for the heart and brain

    Author: AAP

Besides being good for your heart, the Mediterranean diet is good for your mind, even if you don't live in that region, according to new research.

Another string has been added to the bow of the Mediterranean diet, new research showing it can slow down cognitive decline.

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As well as improving the health of your heart, it is good for your mind, too, and may even help ward off Alzheimer's disease, the research published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition suggests.

The main foods in the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) include plant foods, such as leafy greens, fresh fruit and vegetables, cereals, beans, seeds, nuts, and legumes. It is also low in dairy, has minimal red meat, and uses olive oil as its major source of fat.

Researchers from the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Melbourne's Swinburne University of Technology, who analysed data from 2000-2015, found attention, language and memory were positively affected by the MedDiet.


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Memory, in particular, gained the biggest benefits, evidence pointing to improvements in delayed recognition, long-term and working memory, executive function and visual constructs.

Lead author Roy Hardman said what was most surprising was that the positive effects were found in people from all across the globe - not just those living in the Mediterranean region.

So, just why is a higher adherence to the MedDiet related to slowing down the rate of cognitive decline?

Hardman says the diet offers the opportunity to biologically change many of the risk factors.

"These include reducing inflammatory responses, increasing micronutrients, improving vitamin and mineral imbalances, changing lipid profiles by using olive oils as the main source of dietary fats, maintaining weight and potentially reducing obesity, improving polyphenols in the blood, improving cellular energy metabolism and maybe changing the gut micro-biota, although this has not been examined to a larger extent yet."

The benefits to cognition were not just exclusive to older individuals.

Two of the studies the Australian researchers analysed focused on younger adults and they both found improvements in cognition using computerised assessments.

The research heightened the importance of how a good diet was an essential tool to maintaining quality of life, said Hardman, who recommends people switch to the tried and tested diet.

"I follow the diet patterns and do not eat any red meats, chicken or pork. I have fish two to three times per week and adhere to a Mediterranean style of eating," he said.


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