A recent study suggests that people who consistently adhere to a Mediterranean diet may have a reduced risk for stoke, depression and cognitive impairment.
The Mediterranean diet is based on the healthy eating and lifestyle habits of the people living in Southern Italy, the Greek island of Crete and other areas of Greece in the early 1960s. The diet is rich in heart-healthy fiber and nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. The diet generally includes: fruits, vegetables and unsaturated "good" fats, particularly olive oil. Olive oil has been associated with benefits such as lower blood pressure and a lower risk for heart disease. In addition, olive oil may benefit people with type 2 diabetes.
In a recent study, researchers conducted a comprehensive literature search for studies evaluating the effects of the Mediterranean diet on cognitive impairment, depression, Parkinson's disease and stroke risk. Twenty-two studies were ultimately identified for inclusion.
Through data analyses, the researchers found that people who consistently adhered to a Mediterranean diet had a 40 percent reduced risk of cognitive impairment, 32 percent reduced risk of depression, and a 29 percent reduced risk of stroke. Those who moderately adhered to the diet had similarly reduced risks for both cognitive impairment and depression, while the reduction in stroke risk was minimal. After further analysis, the authors noted that the effects on stroke risk appeared to be more prominent in men than in women.
The authors concluded that consistently adhering to a Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk for a number of brain diseases, particularly cognitive impairment, stroke and depression. A study published earlier this year also found that maintaining a Mediterranean diet rich in extra-virgin oil or mixed nuts may improve brain function. Additional research is warranted.
Psaltopoulou T, Sergentanis TN, Panagiotakos DB, Sergentanis IN, Kosti R, Scarmeas N. "Mediterranean diet, stroke, cognitive impairment, and depression: A meta-analysis." Annals of Neurology. 2013 May 30.