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To Your Health: NLM update Transcript

Mediterranean diet improves memory and thinking?: 06/08/2015

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health, a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM, that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

Seniors on a Mediterranean diet showed improvements in tests of memory and thinking compared to peers on a low fat diet, finds an interesting study from Spain recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine.

The randomized clinical trial of 450 adults (mostly age 65 or older) compared a group who followed a low fat diet with two cohorts on a Mediterranean diet from 2003-2009. The folks on the Mediterranean diet supplemented it with either a liter of extra virgin olive oil per week, or about an ounce a day of a mix of walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds.

All the study participants were at a high risk for heart disease but no one reported a history of problems with memory or thinking.

The American Heart Association notes a Mediterranean diet usually features:

  • fruits, vegetables, bread and other cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts, and seeds
  • olive oil
  • wine (in moderation)
  • eggs (in moderation)
  • dairy products (in moderation)

A link to information about the Mediterranean diet (from the American Heart Association) can be found within the 'specific conditions' section of MedlinePlus.gov's diets health topic page.

Specifically, the Spanish study found negligible differences in memory or thinking between the groups that supplemented a Mediterranean diet with olive oil or nuts. However, the seniors who enjoyed a Mediterranean diet with olive oil or nuts performed significantly better on a battery of well accepted standardized tests of memory and thinking compared to their peers who followed a low fat diet over several years.

The study's 12 authors conclude (and we quote): 'In an older population, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil or nuts is associated with improved cognitive function' (end of quote).

The study's lead researcher told HealthDay (and we quote): 'You can delay the onset of age-related mental decline with a healthy diet rich in foods with a high antioxidant power, such as virgin olive oil and nuts' (end of quote).

However, the study's authors acknowledged the findings need to be assessed in a larger senior population to provide more authoritative guidance about the benefits of a Mediterranean diet. The authors also note future studies should delineate what part of a Mediterranean diet seems to be most associated with cognitive benefits.

The authors also explained while the Mediterranean diet previously has been associated with improved cardiovascular (or heart) health, the diet's benefits on mental functioning was hypothesized but has not been assessed extensively.

Meanwhile, the Mediterranean diet is one of an array of diets covered in MedlinePlus.gov's diets health topic page. The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research provides an overview of diverse weight loss options in the “start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's diets health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov's diets health topic page also provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. Links to relevant clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the 'clinical trials' section. You can sign up to receive updates about diet issues as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's diets health topic page type 'diets' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'Diets (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus.gov also has health topic pages devoted to nutrition and weight control.

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A disclaimer -- the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider.

It was nice to be with you. Please join us here next week and here's to your health!