Would you like reduce your risk of cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia? Researchers from around the world having been studying a variety of different factors that might reduce these risks and keep the brain healthy.
Old news: The Mediterranean diet is beneficial
One factor that a number of studies have converged on is a Mediterranean-style diet. This diet includes
- olive oil
- whole grains
- red wine in moderation.
Now, if you’re like me and you happen to like all these foods, then you have all the information you need to eat a brain-healthy diet. On the other hand, if you’re not crazy about everything on the list, perhaps you would rather eat just the most important components. Researchers have, in fact, been trying to determine the key parts of this diet for a number of years.
For example, one study published in 2015 and updated in 2018 compared healthy older adults who followed a Mediterranean diet with extra olive oil or extra nuts versus a control reduced-fat diet. The enhanced Mediterranean diet groups fared equally well, and both had better cognitive performance outcomes than the reduced-fat diet group. No study, however, has been able to determine the critical components of the Mediterranean diet that makes it so good for your brain — until now.
The new study
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health recently published a study that evaluated the lifestyles of over 7,750 participants followed for five to 10 years. Participants filled out questionnaires to determine their eating habits, and had cognitive tests of memory, language, and attention administered over the phone. They used these data to determine the dietary factors most important in lowering your risk of cognitive impairment, as well as the dietary factors most important in lowering your risk of cognitive decline.
Cognitive impairment versus cognitive decline
Let’s take a moment to unpack these terms. Let’s say you want to know what your risk is 10 years from now.
- Cognition is a shorthand way of saying thinking, memory, language, attention, visuospat