Boost Brain Power With A Mediterranean Diet

By Enozia Vakil , May 22, 2013 12:42 AM EDT

A new study claims that a Mediterranean diet rich in extra-virgin olive oil may not just be beneficial to your heart, but also to your brain. Olive oil and nuts - major components of a Mediterranean diet - work wonders in keeping the brain agile and healthy, the study shows.

This study, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry also found that participants who consumed a Mediterranean diet plus olive oil demonstrated better cognitive function, and scored better in clock-drawing tests.

"Our trial suggests that nutritional intervention with MedDiet supplemented with either extra-virgin olive oil or nuts is associated with improved global cognition," the authors wrote. "There are mechanisms that can explain the protective effect of MedDiet on cognitive status, including antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects and reduced vascular comorbidities."

A Mediterranean diet is typically free from any processed foods, and bad fats, and includes more foods that are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. These foods help reduce vascular damage, free radical damage and inflammation.

"The Mediterranean diet is high in antioxidants, its anti-inflammatory, and it has a lot of vascular protective elements, so I don't think this is a stretch," Dr Melina Jampolis, a physician-nutrition specialist said. "In a high-risk vascular population, this could be beneficial, and it's worth evaluating further."

However, comparing a Mediterranean diet to a low-fat diet, in this study, would be unfair. "It's erroneous to say (the Mediterranean diet in this study is) better than a low fat diet, when in fact they weren't following a low-fat diet," Dr Dean Ornish, a well-known proponent of a plant-based, low fat diet, said. "If they said the Mediterranean diet improves cognition compared to standard American diet or standard Spanish diet, I would agree, but clearly, a 37% fat diet is not a low-fat diet."

With a majority of foods falling under the category of a Mediterranean diet being economical, the diet is not just a healthy diet, but also a sustainable diet.

"The Mediterranean people enjoy this kind of diet every day," Dr. Martinez-Gonzalez, chairman of preventive medicine at the University of Navarra, Spain, and the study author, said. "It is pleasant, it is healthy, it is sustainable, and it is not very expensive."

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