The Mediterranean diet, inspired by dietary habits of Spain, Southern Italy and Greece, is famous for its benefits to human health. A new study reveals that it might be better than thought, especially for our brain.
People who adopt a Mediterranean diet are encouraged to consume a lot of fruit and vegetables, unrefined grains, beans, a bit of fish, seafood and wine, olive oil as the main source of fat, nuts, and full-fat dairy products, especially yoghurt and cheese. Studies on its benefits especially emphasize the fact that such a diet lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases and has good effects on cholesterol and blood pressure.
The research, whose results were published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday, the 12th of May 2015, proves that olive oil and a couple of dozen grams of nuts can help our brain function normally for a longer period of time, regardless of the ageing process we inevitably undergo. Even if the results might not sound shocking to nutritionists and other experts, what makes the study outstanding is the scientific practices it made use of in order to test the effect a Med diet has on human health. While other studies were simply based on observing the results, this was “the first clinical, randomized study using a dietary pattern for good health,” according to Dr. Emilio Ros, lead author of the study and director of the lipid clinic at Hospital Clinic, from the University of Barcelona in Spain. He stated that the information collected from earlier studies proves that taking up a Med diet could reduce the risk of dementia and improve cognitive functions. Dr. Ross says that “this study removes the bias and provides first-level evidence.”
The research involved 447 participants whose ages varied from 55 to 80 and who were healthy from the cognitive point of view. Most of them were overweight and at a risk of cardiovascular disease, with high blood pressure and increased levels of cholesterol. Three groups were formed. One group was asked to go on a low-fat diet. The other two groups adopted a Mediterranean diet. Moreover, one of the two groups ate an extra handful of mixed nuts everyday and the other one around 75 ml extra-virgin olive oil daily. The trial lasted about four years. At the end of the study it was proved that memory was better in the group that took up a Med diet and ate the raw nuts, compared to that of the participants who adopted a low-fat diet. The group who consumed olive oil proved to have better frontal and global cognition. This is mainly due to the anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants present in these super foods. Both olive oil and nuts are abundant in phenolic compounds that prevent the oxidative processes in our brain from occurring.
However, it was argued by experts at the Mayo that the study doesn’t necessarily prove that a Mediterranean diet can lead to better cognitive function but only that it helps decrease the rate at which they are become affected by the ageing process. Even if it is better than other observational research, it still does not provide definite evidence.
A balanced diet should be adopted by everyone who wants to stay healthy, and this should include the diversity necessary for our body to function well.
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