Following a Mediterranean diet, which includes eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, and good fats, may improve brain function, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
The benefits of a Mediterranean diet has been known for those with diabetes, however previous research has not looked at the benefit of a Mediterranean diet on brain health.
How was the Study Conducted?
A total of 913 participants were followed in the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study for two years. The researchers evaluated participants’ eating habits and conducted tests for cognitive function and memory.
The researchers scored participants’ eating habits by giving then a Mediterranean diet score based on how much of foods they contained items from a Mediterranean diet, and other heart-healthy diets.
Participants were asked to recall and record what foods they ate and drank.
What they found is that in those without diabetes, following a Mediterranean diet was associated with memory improvements, however, cognitive function did not change. For these participants, the other two heart-healthy diets were both tied to better cognitive function.
For participants with diabetes, the Mediterranean diet was associated with a wide range of improvements in brain health.
They found that people with diabetes who followed a Mediterranean diet had improvements in cognitive function, word recognition, and other skills than people who did not follow the diet.
“Both adhering to a Mediterranean diet and effectively managing Type 2 diabetes may support optimal cognitive function,” the authors conclude. “Healthy diets, in general, can help improve memory function among adults without Type 2 diabetes.”
The study had several limitations, first, it wasn’t a controlled study that proved how a Mediterranean diet actually influences brain function. Second, the study only looked at people from Puerto Rican descent, and so it does not give an accurate picture of what could happen to people across different populations.
- Diabetes Care. The Mediterranean Diet and 2-Year Change in Cognitive Function by Status of Type 2 Diabetes and Glycemic Control. (2019, May). Retrieved: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2019/05/21/dc19-0130