Eating a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, has a positive effect on health, however little is understood concerning the ramifications of including unhealthy foods in an otherwise healthful diet. Now researchers at Rush University Medical Center have reported diminished benefits of a Mediterranean diet among those with high frequency of eating foods from the Western diet. The results of the study were published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
“Eating a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruit, fish and whole grains may positively affects a person’s health,” said Puja Agarwal, PhD, a nutritional epidemiologist and assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Rush Medical College. “But when it is combined with fried food, sweets, refined grains, red meat and processed meat, we observed that the benefits of eating the Mediterranean part of the diet seems to be diminished.”
The Mediterranean diet is associated with lower levels of cognitive decline in older adults.
The observational study included 5,001 elderly adults living in Chicago that have been part of the Chicago Health and Aging Project, a review of cognitive health in adults over age 65 ran from 1993 to 2012. Every 3 years, the study participants performed a cognitive assessment questionnaire that tested basic information processing abilities and memory, and they filled out a questionnaire concerning the frequency with which they consumed 144 foods, including food from the Western diet.
The researchers examined how closely all the study participants adhered to a Mediterranean diet, which includes daily consumption of vegetables, fruit, legumes, olive oil, fish, potatoes and unrefined cereals, also moderate wine consumption. They also assessed how much each player followed a Western diet, which included fried foods, refined grains, sweets, red and processed meats, full-fat dairy goods and pizza. They assigned scores of zero to five for every food thing to compile a overall Mediterranean diet plan for each participant along a range from zero to 55.
The researchers then examined the association between Mediterranean diet scores and changes in participants’ international cognitive functioning, episodic memory and perceptual speed. Participants with slower cognitive decline over the decades of followup were those who stuck nearest to the Mediterranean diet, together with limiting foods which are part of Western diet, whereas participants who ate more of the Western diet had no beneficial effect of healthful food components in slowing cognitive decline.
There was no substantial interaction between age, sex, race or education and the institution with cognitive decline in either low or high levels of Western diet foods. The study also included versions for smoking status, body mass index and other potential factors like cardiovascular ailments and findings stayed the same.
“Western diets can negatively impact cognitive health,” Agarwal said. “People who had a high Mediterranean diet score compared to those who had the lowest score were equal to being 5.8 years younger in age “
Agarwal said that the results match other studies demonstrating a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes and also support previous studies on Mediterranean diet plan and cognition. The analysis also notes that most of the dietary patterns that have demonstrated improvement in cognitive functioning among older adults, including the Mediterranean, MIND, and DASH diets, possess a distinctive scoring matrix depending on the number of servings consumed for each diet component. Eating some foods from a Western diet diminishes a mostly Mediterranean diet.
“The more we can incorporate green leafy vegetables, other Berries, vegetables, olive oil, and fish to our diets, the better it’s for our aging brains and bodies. Other studies show that red and processed meat, fried foods and reduced whole grains intake are associated with higher inflammation and quicker cognitive decline in older ages,” Agarwal said. “To reap the benefits of diets such as the Mediterranean diet plan, or MIND diet, we’d need to limit our consumption of processed foods and other unhealthy foods such as fried foods and sweets.”
The analysis and its findings cannot be readily generalized. Future longitudinal research on diet and cognition one of the middle-aged population are necessary to extend those findings.