Individuals following the Mediterranean diet are more likely to experience better cognitive function when they get older compared to those on a Western diet, a new study shows.

Scientists from Rush University in Chicago have found that a Mediterranean lifestyle can keep an older adult’s memory sharper for longer, even if they display signs of dementia in their brain.

Good brain function in old age is also seen in those who drink limited amounts of alcohol, don’t smoke and regularly exercise, the study has reported.

According to the researchers, a balanced diet staves off cognitive decline because it reduces an individual’s risk of developing obesity-related blood vessel complications, which can in turn affect brain function.

Additionally, they have found that eating a high amount of fruit and vegetables are beneficial for an individual’s memory as they are high in brain-protecting antioxidants.

During the experiment, the team of academics examined the autopsy data of 586 older adults from the Rush Memory and Aging Project.

They used a five-stage healthy lifestyle score to determine how the participant’s day to day lives impacted their cognitive activity score – which was recorded less than a year before their deaths.

Participants with a higher lifestyle score had better brain function before they died, according to the results.

As part of the study, the scientists removed the participant’s brains after they had passed away to examine for amyloid beta and tau tangles – signs of Alzheimer’s.

The investigation has revealed that a participant’s healthy lifestyle had the ability to combat cognitive decline, even if their brains showed signs of the memory loss condition.

The Mediterranean diet includes lots of healthy foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seafood, beans and nuts.

Previous research has found that people eating a Mediterranean diet are more likely to live longer than those following a Western diet.

The research was published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

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