Newswise — Findings about what specific components of diets are most beneficial are frequently changing. However, an ongoing study of older adults shows evidence that one type of diet can help mitigate cognitive problems. An ongoing prospective study called the Chicago Health and Aging Project has shown that adherence to the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of cognitive decline with older age.

“This diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, fish, olive oil, lower meat consumption, and moderate wine and non-refined grain intake,” said lead author Dr. Christy Tangney of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “Instead of espousing avoidance of foods, the data support that adults over age 65 should look to include more olive oil, legumes, nuts, and seeds in their diet in order to improve their recall times and other cognitive skills, such as identifying symbols and numbers.”

The nearly 4,000 participants in this study included black and white adults aged 65 and older. They were given a battery of cognitive tests which were assigned scores and then a clinical interview. Those who ranked in the highest in terms of following such a Mediterranean-type diet were more protected from cognitive decline. The adults were given these cognitive tests every 3 years for 15 years. “Finally, we want older adults to remember that physical activity is an important part of maintaining cognitive skills,” added Tangney.

These findings will be presented at a poster session on Monday, April 26 at the Experimental Biology 2010 Meeting in Anaheim as part of the scientific program of the American Society for Nutrition, home to the world’s leading nutrition researchers.

Coauthors include: Drs. Christy Tangney; Mary Kwasny; Hong Li; Denis Evans; Martha Clare Morris

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