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Eating Fish and Avoiding Meat and Dairy Preserves Memory

Update Date: Apr 29, 2013 04:00 PM EDT

Eating fish, chicken and salad dressing, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and avoiding meat, dairy and other foods with saturated fats may preserve memory and cognitive abilities in older adults, according to a new study.

The latest study, published in the journal Neurology, was based on data from the REasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, a national sample of the general population. The data included information from 17,478 African- American and Caucasian people with an average age of 64.

The study authors wanted to see how closely participants adhered to a Mediterranean diet. Researchers also monitored participants' memory and thinking abilities over an average of four years.

Around 17 percent of the participants had diabetes, and 7 percent developed impairments in their thinking and memory skills during the study, according to researchers.

However, the findings revealed that participants who more closely followed the Mediterranean diet were 19 percent less likely to develop memory and thinking problems.  However, researchers found that the Mediterranean diet was not associated with a lower risk of thinking and memory problems in people with diabetes. The study also found that there was not a significantly difference in declines between African-Americans and Caucasians.

"Since there are no definitive treatments for most dementing illnesses, modifiable activities, such as diet, that may delay the onset of symptoms of dementia are very important," Dr. Georgios Tsivgoulis, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Athens, Greece, said in a news release.

"Diet is an important modifiable activity that could help in preserving cognitive functioning in late life," explained Tsivgoulis.

"However, it is only one of several important lifestyle activities that might play a role in late-life mental functioning. Exercise, avoiding obesity, not smoking cigarettes and taking medications for conditions like diabetes and hypertension are also important," he added.

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