Mediterranean Diet Sharpens the Brain

close up of olive oil on white background with clipping pathBy Emily Murray

As more of the country becomes “obese” (by medical standards) fear for our collective health has left many of us looking at our own eating habits. Perhaps one of the most commonly misunderstood nutrients is fat. While it may have a bad connotation in our minds, dietary fat is essential for our body to function.

The Mediterranean diet includes many of these good fats and a recent study published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry has showcased just how great this diet can be for you not only physically but mentally too.

For some time now we have associated the Mediterranean diet with health benefits including reduced risk of stroke, heart attacks or even asthma in children. The new study however hones in the brain powering capabilities of a diet high in good fats.

Not only is dietary fat important for day-to-day functioning, but it also can help preserve brain function in later years. This was the theory that was researched by the University of Navarra in Spain. Participants were a combination of males and females and ranged from 55 to 80, with no incidence of heart disease but were at an elevated risk of high blood pressure, stroke or becoming overweight.

Three groups were created:

#1. Mediterranean Diet w/extra-virgin olive oil

#2. Mediterranean Diet supplemented with mixed nuts

#3. Low-fat diet

After nearly six and a half years, study participants underwent cognitive testing and 60 out of the entire group had developed slight cognitive impairments while 35 developed dementia. Of the 60 with mild cognitive impairment, 12 were from group 1 (Mediterranean Diet w/extra-virgin olive oil), 6 from group 2 ( Mediterranean Diet supplemented with mixed nuts) and 17 from group 3 (the low-fat diet).

Aside from these results, it appears that those with a higher fat diet scored better in the cognitive testing than the low-fat groups.

Kind of makes “fat” a bit less of a dirty word now doesn’t it?