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The Mediterranean diet isn’t really strictly defined, except by the general guidelines to eat more plant-based foods, including olive oil and nuts, and very little saturated fat from meat, dairy, and eggs. A typical day’s menu might look like this:
Breakfast: whole grain pancakes with fresh sliced strawberries
Lunch: mixed salad greens with grilled chicken breast, walnuts, cucumbers, and apples with olive oil and balsamic dressing
Dinner: broiled salmon with lemon and dill, brown rice, and steamed asparagus
Several studies have suggested that adhering to a Mediterranean-style diet might improve longevity and decrease the risk of several chronic conditions including diabetes, cancer, obesity, and heart disease. Recent studies also suggest that the Mediterranean diet could help people at risk for vascular disease from developing dementia.
The new study followed 17,478 people (average age 64 years) as part of the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study for four years to see how adhering to the Mediterranean diet affected their thinking and reasoning (cognitive) function. The researchers were particularly interested in finding out how the results differed by race, as black people are disproportionately affected by dementia and some of its risk factors, including diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and stroke.
Here’s what the study found:
“To our knowledge, this is the largest population-based sample of stroke-free individuals in whom higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower likelihood of incident cognitive impairment independent of a substantial number of important potential confounders at baseline assessment,” said lead study author, Georgios Tsivgoulis, MD.
The beauty of taking one step to improve your health is that it tends to spill over into other areas. We don’t always know what causes dementia, but studies have shown that these things might help ward it off or keep it from getting worse:
(Neurology 2013; 80:1684–92)