Mediterranean diet may improve cognitive function in older adults

For over 20 years, Truehope has maintained that nutrition plays a key role in mental health. During those two decades, research has been increasing that confirms this.

Some recent research has shown that the Mediterranean diet may play a role in the mental health of aging adults. Citing multiple studies, Irish researchers reported in a recent paper in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society that “the Mediterranean diet is receiving significant attention as regards its role in preserving cognitive health and protecting against depression in ageing.”

For example, a 2017 meta-analysis of over 34,000 people found that the higher the Mediterranean diet score was (the more you followed a Mediterranean diet), the less likely they were to develop cognitive disorders.

A 2015 study randomly assigned nearly 500 older participants (mean age of 67) into one of 3 groups: Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil, Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts, and a control diet of just reducing dietary fats generally. Researchers found that when participants supplemented their Mediterranean diet with olive oil or mixed nuts, they were more likely to improve cognitive function.

Another 2017 study of nearly 600 older participants (mean age of 80 years) used MRI technology to measure cortical thickness of the four lobes of each participant’s brain. They discovered that higher the participants’ Mediterranean diet score was, the thicker their cerebral cortex was in the frontal, parietal, and occipital lobes, and the thicker the cortical thickness was between all lobes on average. Cortical thickness is generally associated with a lower risk of cognitive impairment.

Finally, a 2013 American study of over 3,500 participants over the age of 65 found that over a 7-year period, participants who best followed a Mediterranean diet were least likely to experience newly occurring symptoms of depression. In fact, when you compare the depression rates of those who best followed a Mediterranean diet with that of those who least followed the diet, the annual rate was 98.6% lower than the latter.

So, what is a Mediterranean diet? It’s typically characterized by higher intakes of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish, unsaturated fatty acids (such as olive oil and that obtained through nut consumption), and a regular but moderate consumption of alcohol.

This study joins a growing body of research showing a strong connection between nutrition and mental health. Here at Truehope, we’ve been promoting nutrition as mental health treatment for over 20 years.

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