Following a Mediterranean diet in old age, even in the short term, helps maintain cognitive performance and its functions such as attention, processing speed, or cognitive flexibility, according to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.
The study, carried out by CIBEROBN, a Spanish consortium of public research centers funded by the Carlos III Health Institute (Madrid), and the Rovira I Virgili University (Barcelona), has evaluated cognitive health and dietary intake in 6,647 participants of the PREDIMED-Plus project.
Cognitive health, defined as the ability to think, learn and remember clearly, is an essential component to correctly carry out daily activities and maintain quality of life.
Currently, the only effective treatment for cognitive decline is prevention through lifestyle and dietary changes.
To examine the short-term impact of diet in the elderly, the authors examined the impact of three diets: Mediterranean, DASH, and MIND, and changes in cognitive performance at two years in overweight or obese Spanish elderly at high risk of cardiovascular disease.
The Mediterranean diet is characterized by the use of olive oil as the main source of fat, high consumption of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains or nuts, and low or moderate amounts of foods of animal origin such as dairy, red meat, and foods, and ultra-processed foods or foods rich in sugar.
Designed to treat or prevent hypertension, DASH is rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, includes fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, legumes, and nuts, and limits foods high in saturated fat. such as fatty meats and whole dairy products.
MIND targets neurodegenerative retardation through foods that are believed to support brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, and berries.
The study showed that participants on the Mediterranean diet scored higher on tests related to general and executive cognitive function over a two-year period and that cognitive benefits were related to eating foods rich in healthy fats, such as oil. made of olives.
Adherence to the MIND diet was positively associated with cognitive health, but only in relation to the memory, while adherence to the DASH diet was not associated with better cognitive function in the present population.
Therefore, even in the short term, following a Mediterranean diet can benefit cognitive function in old age.
The work has been carried out by Stephanie K. Nishi, postdoctoral fellow of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and visiting professor of the Human Nutrition Unit of the Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology of the Rovira i Virgili University (URV) in collaboration with Jordi Salas-Salvadó and Nancy Babio, both researchers from CIBEROBN and the Pere Virgili Institute for Health Research (IISPV-CERCA).