Many doctors recommend dietary changes to help preserve cognitive function, but often aging parents worry that it may be too late for them to make major changes. However, a new study indicates that eating healthily can have brain benefits even for older individuals.
A study recently published online in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine and entitled “Mediterranean Diet and Age-Related Cognitive Decline” looked at 447 individuals who were at risk of cardiovascular incidence and who were all judged to be cognitively healthy at the time of enrollment. The average age of participants was 67 years.
Each of the participants was assigned to one of three groups: a group which would be placed on a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil; a group which would be placed on a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts; or a control group that was advised to reduce fat intake.
Over the next few years, researchers conducted cognitive testing on each of the groups. The results showed that those in the Mediterranean diet groups fared much better on the cognitive function tests than did those in the control group.
Mediterranean diets have long been recommended to improve heart health in aging parents and others. Typically, a Mediterranean diet includes an abundance of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fish and tends to de-emphasize red meat.
Adding more olive oil and nuts adds healthy forms of fat to the diet which are thought to protect the nerve cells in the brain. Taking little steps such as cooking with olive oil rather than butter is one way to help get these healthier fats into the system and on to the brain.
Aging parents may want to consult a nutritionist to see how they can incorporate a Mediterranean diet with extra olive oil and/or nuts into their lifestyles. It’s also wise to consult with a doctor before making any drastic diet changes.
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