- The Med diet involves plenty of fruit and veg, wholegrains, nuts and olive oil
- Participants who followed it scored higher on tests of cognitive function
- READ MORE: ‘Skinny fat’ raises risk of Alzheimer’s even MORE than obesity
The Mediterranean diet can help keep your brain sharp in old age, even if you show signs of dementia, a study has suggested.
Researchers from Rush University in Chicago found that people who followed the Mediterranean diet scored higher on tests of cognitive function, even if they had signs of Alzheimer’s in their brains after they died.
Other important factors included not smoking, drinking minimal alcohol and exercising frequently.
One of the reasons the diet is thought to combat cognitive decline is because it is balanced and keeps you full for longer – making you less likely to snack on high-calorie junk.
This keeps weight stable and healthy, reducing the risk of obesity-related blood vessel problems that can impact brain function.
Some research suggests the abundance of fruit and vegetables in the diet plays a role too – as they are high in brain-protecting antioxidants.
A huge amount of research has designated the Mediterranean diet as the gold-standard eating regime
The researchers used data from the Rush Memory and Aging Project, a study with autopsy data from 1997 to 2022 and up to 24 years of follow-up.
They looked at 586 participants who had died at an average age of 91.
A healthy lifestyle score was developed for each participant based on self-reported factors, including smoking, if participants did at least two and a half hours of exercise a week, alcohol consumption, a Mediterranean diet and cognitive activity score.
The overall healthy lifestyle score was from one to five, with higher scores reflecting a healthier lifestyle.
Researchers compared this to a cognitive score from tests less than a year before participants’ death.
In the Rush Memory and Aging Project, participants’ cognitive function was evaluated every year with 19 tests.
A higher lifestyle score was associated with better cognitive functioning close to death.
After they died, participants’ brains were removed and examined for signs of Alzheimer’s such as amyloid beta and tau tangles.
Even if participants’ brains showed signs of Alzheimer’s, their healthy lifestyle still appeared to protect the somewhat from cognitive decline, the study showed.
The study was published in the journal JAMA Neurology.
The Mediterranean diet is compised of plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and olive oil.
A huge amount of research has designated the Mediterranean diet as the gold standard eating regime.
A study published last year found that swapping to a Mediterranean diet from the normal Western diet can help you live longer, and the earlier in your life you start, the better.
But even if you don’t start eating the Mediterranean diet until age 60, you can expect to live an additional eight years, the study found.
And adopting the diet at age 80 still boots life expectance by around three years.
Dementia is the general term for a group of conditions associated with loss of memory, language and judgement.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of the disease, affecting more than six million Americans, while Lewy body dementia is the second most common type, with roughly one million living with the condition.