Diet Linked to Cognitive Abilities in Older Adults

A new study suggests a Mediterranean-style diet may lower the risk for memory difficulties in older adults.

Researchers discovered eating foods found in two healthy diets –- the Mediterranean or the MIND diet — were linked to improved performance on cognitive tests when compared to people who consumed less healthy diets.

The paper, “Neuroprotective diets are associated with better cognitive function: the Health and Retirement Study,” appears online ahead of print in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, potatoes, nuts, olive oil, and fish. Processed foods, fried and fast foods, snack foods, red meat, poultry, and whole-fat dairy foods are infrequently eaten on the Mediterranean diet.

The MIND diet is a version of the Mediterranean diet that includes 15 types of foods. Ten are considered “brain-healthy:” green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, seafood, poultry, olive oil, and wine. Five are considered unhealthy: red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries, sweets, and fried/fast foods.

Researchers examined information from 5,907 older adults who participated in the Health and Retirement Study.

The participants filled out questionnaires about their eating habits. Researchers then measured the participants’ cognitive abilities–mostly on their memory and attention skills.

Investigators compared the diets of participants to their performance on the cognitive tests. They found that older people who ate Mediterranean and MIND-style diets scored significantly better on the cognitive function tests than those who ate less healthy diets.

In fact, older people who ate a Mediterranean-style diet had 35 percent lower risk of scoring poorly on cognitive tests.

Even those who ate a moderate Mediterranean-style diet had 15 percent lower risk of doing poorly on cognitive tests. The researchers noted similar results for people who ate MIND-style diets.

Researchers believe the findings suggests eating Mediterranean and MIND-style diets are associated with better overall cognitive function in older adults. Moreover, older adults who followed these healthy diets had lower risks for having cognitive impairment in later life.

Source: American Geriatrics Society

Posted by Patricia Adams