Mediterranean Diet
Food is seen on a table at a restaurant at the port of El Masnou, near Barcelona May 16, 2008. Reuters/Albert Gea

Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) has been endorsed by many but new research has showed that it can even slow down cognitive decline in patients. Apart from being good for the heart, the Mediterranean diet is good for the mind too. It may help keep Alzheimer’s at bay.

The research, published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, suggests that the MedDiet positively affected memory, language and attention in people. The MedDiet generally consists of plant foods such as leafy greens, fresh vegetables and fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, beans and cereals. It has minimal red meat and is also low in dairy. It uses olive oil as its major source of fat.

Data from 2000-2015 was analysed by the researchers from the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Melbourne's Swinburne University of Technology. Memory in particular gained the most from the Mediterranean diet. Evidence pointed towards improvements in long-term and working memory, delayed recognition, executive functions and visual constructs.

Moreover, the positive effects of the Mediterranean diet were found in people across the globe and not just in those living in the Mediterranean region. Lead author Roy Hardman believes the MedDiet offers biologically changes many of the risk factors. The benefits to cognition were not just exclusive to older individuals.

“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,” Hardman said in a statement.

Two of the studies the Australian researchers focused on were for younger adults and both studies showed improvements in cognition using computerized assessments. The experts believe that utilisation of a dietary pattern, especially like that of the MedDiet, may be essential to maintain quality of life. These kinds of diets may reduce the potential economic and social burdens associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

COUNTERVIEW: Mediterranean diet & heart problems: Dieticians and experts warn people to be cautious of the research findings