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A study by researchers at Rush revealed that this diet is also associated with slower rates of cognitive decline in older adults. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, looked at how well almost 4,000 older adults on the South Side of Chicago adhered to the Mediterranean diet.
The result: Those who most closely followed the diet in their eating habits showed slower rates of cognitive decline than those whose food choices were less in line with the diet.
Every three years, study participants underwent a cognitive assessment that tested such things as memory and basic math skills. They also filled out a questionnaire on the frequency with which they ate 139 food items, such as cereal, olive oil, red meat and alcohol.
Out of a maximum score of 55, which would indicate complete adherence to the Mediterranean diet, study participants’ average score was 28.
According to lead study author Christy Tangney, PhD, a faculty member in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at Rush, those with the higher scores were also the individuals whose cognitive tests showed a slower rate of decline — even when other factors that might account for the result, such as education level, were considered.
"It’s always beneficial to eat healthily," says Tangney. "But we're finding more and more evidence that people who follow the Mediterranean diet have the right idea because they’re actually helping to prevent some of the serious health problems that are prevalent among older adults."
A lot of the rules of thumb for the Mediterranean diet are true of any sensible eating plan, such as replacing whole or 2 percent milk with skim, loading up on lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoiding breads, snacks and cereals made with refined white flour.
We're finding more and more evidence that people who follow the Mediterranean diet have the right idea because they’re actually helping to prevent some of the serious health problems that are prevalent among older adults.
Here's a quick rundown of the diet:
The diet isn't just about what you should eat — it's also about what you shouldn't eat. As much as possible, avoid processed foods and choose foods with no trans-fats (trans-fats are responsible for increasing bad cholesterol, or LDL, and reducing good cholesterol, or HDL).
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