The Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, fishes, whole grains, and healthy fats, can improve brain function.
Researchers found that the Mediterranean diet offers nutrients that are known to sustain cognitive function, especially among people who have been diagnosed with diabetes.
Mediterranean Diet Linked To Improved Memory
In a study published in the journal Diabetes Care, researchers monitored the health of over 900 participants of the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study. Over two years, the team recorded the participants' eating habits and tested them for diabetes 2. As part of the study, researchers also administered tests that evaluated the participants' cognitive function, memory, and executive function.
They found that non-diabetic people who most closely followed the Mediterranean diet were more likely to show memory improvements during the study period. However, it did not seem to have an effect on other types of cognitive function.
The other two heart-healthy diets, including the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH diet recommended by the American Heart Association, were linked to better cognitive function.
For diabetics, the Mediterranean diet showed great promise. Participants diagnosed with diabetes experienced improved cognitive function, word recognition, and clock drawing skills compared to those who did not closely follow the popular diet.
The researchers, however, also found that the brain benefits of the diet were limited only to those who have well-controlled blood sugar levels at the beginning of the study. There was no significant improvement among those who already have poorly controlled blood sugar at the start of the study or those whose blood sugar grew progressively worse throughout the two-year period.
"A healthy Mediterranean diet includes foods that are rich in fruit and vegetables, which has antioxidants, and in fish and oils, which include healthy fats," explained Josiemer Mattei from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the lead author of the study. "These nutrients help sustain cognitive function by reducing inflammation and oxidation in the brain."
Mediterranean diet has also been linked to better heart health.
Limitations Of The Study
The researchers warned that the study only focused on Puerto Ricans, which means that the findings might not be true or applicable to everyone. The study also relied on participants self-reporting their diet.