A lot has been written about the beneficial effects of the Mediterranean-style diet. Scientists have explored the diet’s ability to positively impact the cardiovascular system and reduce the risks of developing breast cancer. However, experts are now saying that it has positive effects on cognitive abilities, especially in advanced age.
Two teams of Australian researchers; one from the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Swinburne University of Technology and the other from the Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research at Deakin University decided to do a comprehensive review of a number of trials and studies done on this particular diet. More precisely, they looked at studies that were done to determine the effects of the Mediterranean-Style Diet (or MedDiet, as they also call it) on cognition in adults.
You can read their review here.
They reviewed 15 years’ worth of studies done between 2000 and 2015 and they were very selective. In other words, they only included studies that, in their opinion, met certain prerequisites about objectivity, scope and other factors that contribute to studies that cannot be misinterpreted. All in all, they reviewed 50 articles, 18 of which met all of their inclusion criteria.
This may sound unimportant, but the selection process needs to be very rigorous when these types of reviews are in question.
All in all, that their review all but conclusively showed that the MedDiet improved cognitive scores in people who participated in the various studies. The MedDiet also reduced the risk of suffering from Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
The particular Mediterranean-Style Diet studied in this review is originally from Italy, Greece and the Mediterranean parts of the former Yugoslavia. This diet is heavy in fresh fruit, leafy greens, vegetables, seeds, beans, nuts, legumes, and cereals. The MedDiet also includes less dairy and red meats than most other Western-style diets, while including more fish and seafood. Furthermore, the Mediterranean-Style diet often involves regularly drinking reasonable amounts of alcohol (one to two units) such as red wine. Finally, its most important source of fat is olive oil.
It should be pointed out that many of the studies reviewed were not even done in the aforementioned countries, but in the United States, Sweden or other countries that are not generally associated with this type of diet. This is an important detail because it reduces the chances of something other than diet affecting the scores.
And while the majority of the studies reviewed showed that adherence to the MedDiet slows down the reduction in cognitive powers with age and has an overall beneficial effect, there were also a few studies which did not show this. The authors of the review still agree that eating a diet that resembles more the traditional Mediterranean eating habits definitely does show a lot of promise. They also recommend that more research be done on this particular type of a diet, especially with respect to cognition.
When one adds to this the fact that the overall beneficial effects of the MedDiet are well-documented, it becomes almost impossible not to recommend it as a direction in which people should take their eating habits.
The beneficial effects the Mediterranean diet can have on the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, as well as overall health are alone enough to make this diet something we should all strive for. The fact that it can also improve our memory and cognition only makes it more attractive.
In short, get yourself a nice Italian cookbook, find out what they eat in Greece and the Adriatic and get on it!