Food & Beverage Perspectives
Mediterranean Diet_Brain

Mediterranean Diet + Olive Oil or Nuts = Improved Brain Health

The Mediterranean diet has been touted for its heart-healthy benefits, among others. It’s high in fiber, lean proteins such as chicken and fish, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats and oils. More recently, Spanish researchers questioned the diet’s ability to delay cognitive decline, as its high in antioxidants what fight oxidative stress, which is believed, in addition to vascular impairment, to partly mediate age-related cognitive decline—a strong risk factor in developing dementia.

The Mediterranean diet has been touted for its heart-healthy benefits, among others. It’s high in fiber, lean proteins such as chicken and fish, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats and oils. More recently, Spanish researchers questioned the diet’s ability to delay cognitive decline, as its high in antioxidants what fight oxidative stress, which is believed, in addition to vascular impairment, to partly mediate age-related cognitive decline—a strong risk factor in developing dementia (Jama. May 11, 2015).

The  parallel-group clinical trial randomly assigned 447 cognitively healthy volunteers at high cardiovascular risk to a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil (1 L/week), a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts (30 g/d) or a control diet (advised to reduce dietary fat) from Oct. 1, 2003 to Dec. 31, 2009.

Follow-up cognitive tests were available in 334 participants after intervention. Those who ate a Mediterranean diet with olive oil scored better on the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test and Color Trial test compared with the control group; no between-group differences were observed for the other cognitive tests. Similarly, adjusted cognitive composites for changes above baseline of the memory composite were 0.04 for the Mediterranean diet plus olive oil, 0.09 for the Mediterranean diet plus nuts and -0.17 for the control diet. Respective changes from baseline of the frontal cognition composite were 0.23, 0.03 and -0.33. Changes from baseline of the global cognition composite were 0.05 for the Mediterranean diet plus olive oil, -0.05 for the Mediterranean diet plus nuts and -0.38 for the control diet. All cognitive composites significantly decreased from baseline in controls.

What their data show is in an older population, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil or nuts is associated with improved cognitive function. Nuts are a popular snack food but they’re also a popular inclusion in bars and cereals. Olive oil is used in many food application but one of the most obvious, of course, is salad dressing. Our digital issue on clean-label salad dressings will be posted next week here, so be sure to check it out. If you’re a product developer looking to formulate a clean-label dressing or reformulate a dressing you currently have on the shelves, this digital issue is for you. It’s chock full of dressing science and how address issues such as stability, sensory appeal and more.

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