Following This Diet May Help Prevent Dementia, According to a New Study

As if we needed yet another reason to turn to the Mediterranean diet.

There are plenty of ways our bodies (and minds) change as we age, and there are plenty of healthy ways to stay sharp. More and more research is coming out to help us understand how lifestyle factors, like diet, physical activity and sleep, influence our risk for diseases, like dementia, that are correlated with aging. Even walking as little as three times a week can lower your risk. Lucky for us, making healthy dietary choices is one great way to keep your brain healthy and mind sharp (For more on that, check out our guide to the MIND diet). A new study in Neurology found that one diet in particular that might help prevent dementia and Alzheimer's disease as we age.

A silhouette of a brain
Getty Images / Jolygon / OksanaKiian

For this study, researchers followed 343 people, average age 69.5 years old, at a high risk for developing Alzheimers and 169 people who had a normal risk for cognitive decline. They assessed several biomarkers for brain aging, such as amyloid and tau proteins in the spinal fluid, and also tested participants on language, memory and executive function skills.

They then asked people about their eating habits and foods they ate to see how closely they followed the tenants of the Mediterranean diet, including how often they consumed foods like fish, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Those who did not follow the diet closely had higher biomarkers that are associated with Alzheimers and dementia. In fact, every point a participant lost from not closely following the Mediterranean diet was associated with one additional year of brain aging.

It's not surprising that a diet filled with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, legumes, healthy fats and omega-3-rich seafood would be beneficial to brain health. Luckily for us, the Mediterranean diet is not only one of the healthiest diets in the world, but it is also super versatile and delicious. Recipes like Roasted Salmon with Smoky Chickpeas & Greens and Lentil Salad with Feta, Tomatoes & Olives are good for our brain too? Sounds like a win-win. There are plenty of simple ways to follow the Mediterranean diet so you can reap all the brain-healthy benefits. Make vegetables the star of your meals and snacks, and swap in fruit for a healthy dessert. Choosing healthy fats like olive oil and nuts will help keep you full and feeling your best, too. Other foods like fish, whole grains and even wine are standbys of the Mediterranean diet. For more inspiration on how to follow it, check out our Mediterranean Diet Center.

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