Diet Rich in Nuts and Olive Oil May Prevent Memory Loss Even Late in Life


If you happen to find yourself at a dinner party or potluck this summer, chances are you’ll run into a plethora of people who follow a particular diet. Whether they are omnivores, vegans, gluten-free, or volumetrics (a newer diet concentrating on filling your plate with high-volume, low-calorie food such as salads, fruit, and lean meats), everyone has their own take on the healthiest way to fuel their body these days.

Of course eating healthy becomes even more important as we near old age. While we feel we can control things like our heart health and physique through diet, many of us feel powerless when it comes to staving off memory loss.

New research concludes that we do have some some control. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at the Mediterranean diet (rich in olive oil and nuts) in order to measure its effect on the brain and memory in particular.

Of three groups of older participants (men and women in their 60s and 70s) in Spain, one was given a Mediterranean diet, supplemented with olive oil. Another group had the same diet supplemented with nuts, while the third (control group) ate a lower-fat version of the same diet.

Throughout the experiment, participants from each group were given cognitive tests to measure their brain capacity and memory. At the end of the study (approximately four years later) they were given the same tests again. What the researchers found was that the cognitive ability of the group with the lower-fat diet worsened while the groups eating a healthy amount of olive oil and nuts held steady.

This result is incredibly encouraging as it suggests that even if a person begins eating this type of diet later in life (in their 60s and 70s) it can still prevent a decline in brain function.

Dr. Olivia Okereke, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School explains in Harvard Health Publications that,

Extra-virgin olive oil and nuts contain compounds called polyphenols. These substances help quell oxidation and inflammation, which are harmful to blood vessels and the brain. This may explain why diets rich in polyphenols seem to prevent both heart disease and age-related cognitive problems, says Dr. Olivia Okereke, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Her research focuses on lifestyle factors that contribute to late-life cognitive decline.”

While this study’s findings are consistent with earlier research, the authors of the study and other experts agree that more research is necessary.

IMAGE: Published in TIME


Read all articles by Juniper Briggs



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