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Mediterranean Diet May Preserve Cognitive Function

Update Date: Sep 04, 2013 01:58 PM EDT

Switching to the Mediterranean diet may do more than protect people from heart disease and diabetes.  New research reveals that eating like an Italian can also help preserve cognitive function and protect against neurodegenerative diseases like dementia.

A new study revealed that people who eat more olive oil, vegetables, fruit and fish have a lower risk of age-related diseases.

Researchers analyzed findings from 12 eligible pieces of research, 11 observational studies and one randomized control trial. They found that a higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with better cognitive function, lower rates of cognitive decline and a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease. A higher adherence to to the diet means higher daily intakes of fruit and vegetables and fish, and reduced intakes of meat and dairy products.

However, the findings for mild cognitive impairment were inconsistent.

"Mediterranean food is both delicious and nutritious, and our systematic review shows it may help to protect the ageing brain by reducing the risk of dementia. While the link between adherence to a Mediterranean diet and dementia risk is not new, ours is the first study to systematically analyze all existing evidence," researcher Iliana Lourida said in a news release.

"Our review also highlights inconsistencies in the literature and the need for further research. In particular research is needed to clarify the association with mild cognitive impairment and vascular dementia. It is also important to note that while observational studies provide suggestive evidence we now need randomized controlled trials to confirm whether or not adherence to a Mediterranean diet protects against dementia," Lourida added.

The findings are published in the journal Epidemiology.

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