November 01, 2020

Mediterranean diet associated with brain benefits

Many studies have explored how your diet affects your brain health. A new large study adds to this research by exploring the potential benefits of following a Mediterranean diet.

A Mediterranean diet is plant focused — with an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, herbs, nuts and beans — and relies heavily on olive oil as a source of fat. Animal products, including dairy, poultry, eggs and fish, are used in modest amounts, and red meat is eaten only occasionally.

In the study, published this year in Alzheimer's & Dementia, researchers found that the Mediterranean diet was associated with a decreased risk of cognitive impairment. An especially important component was the association between eating more fish and a reduced risk of cognitive impairment as well as a slower rate of cognitive decline.

Along with their possible brain benefits, fatty fish — such as mackerel, herring, sardines and salmon — are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a kind of polyunsaturated fat with potential health benefits such as reducing inflammation and decreasing triglycerides.

Previous research has shown an association between the Mediterranean diet and a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease dementia. Mayo Clinic experts say this study is notable due to the large number of participants and the ability to show that eating fish in particular is important for brain health.