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Mediterranean diet adherence tied to better cognitive function in older adults

04 Nov 2019

Greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) appears to improve cognitive function and reduce risk of poor cognition in older adults, reveals a UK study.

Higher MedDiet adherence, defined by the Pyramid MedDiet score, was shown to be associated with better global cognition (β, –0.012±0.002; p<0.001), verbal episodic memory (β, −0.009±0.002; p<0.001) and simple processing speed (β, −0.002±0.001; p=0.013).

The highest vs lowest Pyramid MedDiet tertiles also demonstrated a reduced risk of poor verbal episodic memory (odds ratio [OR], 0.784, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.641–0.959; p=0.018), complex processing speed (OR, 0.739, 95 percent CI, 0.601–0.907; p=0.004) and prospective memory (OR, 0.841, 95 percent CI, 0.724–0.977; p=0.023).

Each 1-point increase in the Pyramid score on global cognitive function led to 1.7 fewer years of cognitive ageing.

MedDiet adherence, defined by the Mediterranean Diet Adherence Screener score (mapped using both binary and continuous scoring), showed similar but less consistent associations. Stratified analyses revealed particularly evident associations in individuals at higher CVD risk only (p<0.05).

“This evidence underpins the development of interventions to enhance MedDiet adherence, particularly in individuals at higher CVD risk, aiming to reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline in non-Mediterranean populations,” the investigators said.

This study analysed a total of 8,009 older individuals with dietary data at Health Check 1 (1993–1997) and cognitive function data at Health Check 3 (2006–2011) of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition–Norfolk.

The investigators explored associations between MedDiet adherence and global and domain-specific cognitive test scores and risk of poor cognitive performance in the entire cohort and when stratified according to CVD risk status.

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