The diet that is popularly referred to in the media as the Mediterranean diet may be linked to the preservation of memory and thinking abilities, according to new research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).
It’s worth noting that the “Mediterranean Diet” in popular terminology generally refers to a diet relatively high in fish and bird meat, at the expense of red meat, saturated fats, and dairy. Now of course this doesn’t actually relate that accurately to the diets of any of the people living in the Mediterranean region. Throughout the region (sometimes noted as having a disproportionate number of people that live into old age compared to other regions), the diets are actually quite varied, and none of them are really very similar to the Americanized “Mediterranean Diet”. One thing that is worth noting, is that many of the regions that seem to have more people live into old age than others consume a relatively high quantity of foraged wild greens, such as very nutritious dandelion greens, and stinging nettles.
“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,” said Georgios Tsivgoulis, M.D., a neurologist with UAB and the University of Athens, Greece.
“Data came from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, housed at UAB. REGARDS enrolled 30,239 people ages 45 and older between January 2003 and October 2007, and it continues to follow them for health changes.”
In the new research, “dietary information from 17,478 African-Americans and Caucasians, average age of 64, was reviewed to see how closely they adhered to a Mediterranean diet. Study subjects also underwent tests that measured memory and thinking abilities over an average of four years. A total of 17% of the participants had diabetes.”
The research found that “in healthy people, those who more closely followed the Mediterranean diet were 19% less likely to develop problems with their thinking and memory skills. There was not a significant difference in declines between African-Americans and Caucasians. However, the Mediterranean diet was not associated with a lower risk of thinking and memory problems in people with diabetes.”
“Diet is an important modifiable activity that could help in preserving cognitive functioning in late life,” said 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.”