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A Mediterranean Diet May Help Support Memory As You Age, Study Suggests

Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer By Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
mediterranean diet

By now, it's no secret the Mediterranean diet boasts a variety of benefits. Eating a Mediterranean diet is associated with longer longevity, gut health, and even improved mood. And according to research published in Experimental Gerontology, another benefit to consider is better cognitive function as we age.

Studying the effects of eating habits.

For their study, a team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland wanted to observe potential associations between diet, thinking skills, and brain health in seniors.

They gathered data from over 500 people that were 79 years old (without dementia). Along with answering a survey about their eating habits, these individuals completed a series of questions to test their memory, problem-solving, and the actual speed of their thinking. Three-hundred-fifty-eight of the participants also underwent MRIs, so the researchers could assess their brain structure.


What they found.

The study findings suggest that sticking with a Mediterranean diet as we age could be a good way to keep your mind sharp. In particular, "eating more green leafy vegetables and cutting down on red meat might be two key food elements that contribute to the benefits of the Mediterranean-style diet," study co-author and researcher Janie Corley, Ph.D., says in a news release, noting these seemed to be the strongest factors associated with better cognitive function.

Interestingly, a Mediterranean diet didn't actually indicate better brain health itself for the study participants (think more gray or white matter, as shown by the MRI), but as far as memory and overall cognition, diet did show an impact.

"In our sample, the positive relationship between a Mediterranean diet and thinking skills is not accounted for by having a healthier brain structure, as one might expect," explains Corley, adding, "It's possible there may be other structural or functional brain correlates with this measure of diet, or associations in specific regions of the brain, rather than the whole brain, as measured here."

The takeaway.

We'd all like to stay sharp as we age, and according to this research, the principles of a Mediterranean diet may help us do just that. Luckily, it couldn't be easier—or tastier—to try, with plenty of healthy fats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean sources of protein to choose from. Be sure to check out our ultimate Mediterranean diet grocery list to get you started, and prepare to enjoy the tastes of the Mediterranean.

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