Mediterranean-style diet linked to better thinking skills in later life

February 10, 2021

People who eat a Mediterranean-style diet--particularly one rich in green leafy vegetables and low in meat--are more likely to stay mentally sharp in later life, a study shows.

Closely adhering to a Mediterranean diet was associated with higher scores on a range of memory and thinking tests among adults in their late 70s, the research found.

The study found no link, however, between the Mediterranean-style diet and better brain health.

Markers of healthy brain ageing - such as greater grey or white matter volume, or fewer white matter lesions--did not differ between those regularly eating a Mediterranean diet and those who did not.

These latest findings suggest that this primarily plant-based diet may have benefits for cognitive functioning as we get older, researchers say.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh tested the thinking skills of more than 500 people aged 79 and without dementia.

The participants completed tests of problem solving, thinking speed, memory, and word knowledge, as well as a questionnaire about their eating habits during the previous year.

More than 350 of the group also underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan to gain insights into their brain structure.

The team used statistical models to look for associations between a person's diet and their thinking skills and brain health in later life.

The findings show that, in general, people who most closely adhered to a Mediterranean diet had the highest cognitive function scores, even when accounting for childhood IQ, smoking, physical activity and health factors. The differences were small but statistically significant.

The individual components of the diet that appeared to be most strongly associated with better thinking skills were green leafy vegetables and a lower red meat intake.

Researchers say the latest findings add to the evidence that a healthier lifestyle, of which diet is one aspect, is associated with better thinking skills in later life.

Dr Janie Corley, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, said: "Eating more green leafy vegetables and cutting down on red meat might be two key food elements that contribute to the benefits of the Mediterranean-style diet. In our sample, the positive relationship between a Mediterranean diet and thinking skills is not accounted for by having a healthier brain structure, as one might expect. Though it's possible there may be other structural or functional brain correlates with this measure of diet, or associations in specific regions of the brain, rather than the whole brain, as measured here."
-end-
The study is one of the first to test cognitive and neuroimaging outcomes in the same sample. Experts say it is important step in determining whether diets can help to exert protective effects on brain ageing.

The participants were part of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 study, a group of individuals who were born in 1936 and took part in the Scottish Mental Survey of 1947.

Since 1999, researchers have been working with the Lothian Birth Cohorts to chart how a person's thinking power changes over their lifetime.

The study is supported by Age UK (Disconnected Mind project) and The MRC (Medical Research Council).

The study is published in Experimental Gerontology
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exger.2020.111117

For further information, please contact:
Joanne Morrison,
Press and PR Office,
tel +44 131 651 4266,
joanne.morrison@ed.ac.uk

University of Edinburgh

Related Memory Articles from Brightsurf:

Memory of the Venus flytrap
In a study to be published in Nature Plants, a graduate student Mr.

Memory protein
When UC Santa Barbara materials scientist Omar Saleh and graduate student Ian Morgan sought to understand the mechanical behaviors of disordered proteins in the lab, they expected that after being stretched, one particular model protein would snap back instantaneously, like a rubber band.

Previously claimed memory boosting font 'Sans Forgetica' does not actually boost memory
It was previously claimed that the font Sans Forgetica could enhance people's memory for information, however researchers from the University of Warwick and the University of Waikato, New Zealand, have found after carrying out numerous experiments that the font does not enhance memory.

Memory boost with just one look
HRL Laboratories, LLC, researchers have published results showing that targeted transcranial electrical stimulation during slow-wave sleep can improve metamemories of specific episodes by 20% after only one viewing of the episode, compared to controls.

VR is not suited to visual memory?!
Toyohashi university of technology researcher and a research team at Tokyo Denki University have found that virtual reality (VR) may interfere with visual memory.

The genetic signature of memory
Despite their importance in memory, the human cortex and subcortex display a distinct collection of 'gene signatures.' The work recently published in eNeuro increases our understanding of how the brain creates memories and identifies potential genes for further investigation.

How long does memory last? For shape memory alloys, the longer the better
Scientists captured live action details of the phase transitions of shape memory alloys, giving them a better idea how to improve their properties for applications.

A NEAT discovery about memory
UAB researchers say over expression of NEAT1, an noncoding RNA, appears to diminish the ability of older brains to form memories.

Molecular memory can be used to increase the memory capacity of hard disks
Researchers at the University of Jyväskylä have taken part in an international British-Finnish-Chinese collaboration where the first molecule capable of remembering the direction of a magnetic above liquid nitrogen temperatures has been prepared and characterized.

Memory transferred between snails
Memories can be transferred between organisms by extracting ribonucleic acid (RNA) from a trained animal and injecting it into an untrained animal, as demonstrated in a study of sea snails published in eNeuro.

Read More: Memory News and Memory Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.