While the Mediterranean diet may have broad health benefits, its impact on cognitive decline differs among race-specific populations, according to a new study published in the Journal of Gerontology.
The team of researchers, including Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU Prof. Danit R. Shahar RD, Ph.D, analyzed an NIH/NIA prospective cohort study [Health ABC] conducted over eight years in the U.S. to measure the effects of adherence to a Mediterranean diet. Prof. Shahar is affiliated with the BGU S. Daniel Abraham International Center for Health and Nutrition, Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences.
The Mediterranean-style diet (MedDiet) has fewer meat products and more plant-based foods and monounsaturated fatty acids from olive and canola oil (good) than a typical American diet.
To assess the association between MedDiet score and brain function, the researchers used data of several Modified Mini-Mental State Examinations (3MS) on 2,326 participating older adults (70-79). The 3MS is an extensively used and validated instrument designed to measure several cognitive domains to screen for cognitive impairment and commonly used to screen for dementia.
"In a population of initially well-functioning older adults, we found a significant correlation between strong adherence to the Mediterranean diet and a slower rate of cognitive decline among African American, but not white, older adults. Our study is the first to show a possible race-specific association between the Mediterranean diet and cognitive decline."
The researchers note that further studies in diverse populations are necessary to confirm association between the MedDiet and cognitive decline, and to pinpoint factors that may explain these results.