The Mediterranean diet’s health benefits have been praised in a new review, with researchers approving of the foods eaten on the diet and their positive impact on ageing.
Scientists took an extensive look at the Mediterranean diet in the latest issue of the Journal of Gerentology. They highlighted six studies where a Mediterranean meal plan exerted many beneficial effects including healthier ageing, increased life expectancy and a reduction in chronic disease risk.
A Mediterranean diet typically consists of lots of natural, plant-based foods with the addition of meat, fish and healthy fats. Mediterranean diets also rule out most processed foods, and tend to be lower in carbohydrate than the standard Western diet.
Lower-carb versions of the diet have been associated with improving the health of people with diabetes, helping to normalise blood sugar levels and enable weight loss.
The studies reported that the Mediterranean diet had several beneficial effects on the brain, with improved memory and attention skills observed among those who adhered to this way of eating.
When participants’ diets were compared to how they performed on cognition tests, those whose eating plans lined up with a Mediterranean-style diet tended to have better test scores compared to those on other diet types.
“These findings lend support to the hypothesis that diet modification may be an important public health strategy to protect against neurodegeneration during aging,” said lead author Claire McEvoy, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of California San Francisco.
The researchers hypothesise that the link to healthy ageing is due to Mediterranean diet foods being high in healthy fat types such as omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. Previous research has linked healthy fats and antioxidants to a reduced risk of dementia and improved cognitive performance.
People with diabetes are more susceptible to neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, so reviews such as this are important as illustrating how diet can help improve brain health and the ageing process among the diabetes community.