Researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago looked at the dietary habits and cognitive function of nearly 4,000 Midwesterners aged 65 and older.
The researchers gave participants two different diet scores; one reflecting adherence to a traditional Mediterranean-style diet and another based on how well participants met the 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines.
The Mediterranean diet is traditionally associated with the consumption of a lot of wine, fruits, vegetables, legumes, olive oil and fish, and with very little red meat. Past studied have shown it offers some protection against heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
The participants' cognitive decline was assessed every 3 years, based on measures such as word memory and basic math skills.
Researchers found that participants who followed a Mediterranean-style diet the closest appeared to have slower cognitive decline over time, even after accounting for other factors such as education.
Meanwhile, a diet modeled after the U.S. Dietary Guidelines did not appear to influence rates of cognitive decline.
The findings were reported in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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