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Copyright 2013 Natural Standard (
January 2011

Mediterranean Diet May Slow Cognitive Decline

Recent evidence suggests that the Mediterranean diet may help slow age-related cognitive decline in older adults.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in heart-healthy fiber, fish, fruits, vegetables and unsaturated fats like olive oil. It includes moderate amounts of alcohol and is low in meats, dairy products and saturated fats.

Early evidence suggests that the diet may help reduce the risk of several medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's disease and cancer. Additionally, high life-expectancy rates have been observed among populations that follow a traditional Mediterranean diet.

The researchers reviewed the diets and cognitive function of 3,790 adults who participated in the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP). All of the participants were at least 65 years old. They each received two diet scores: one for how closely they followed the Mediterranean diet and another for how well they met the 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines. The participants' cognitive abilities, such as memory and math skills, were evaluated every three years for an average of 7.6 years.

The average Mediterranean diet score was 28 out of 55 points, and the average U.S. Dietary Guidelines score was 61 out of 100 points.

After adjusting for other factors that may affect cognition, such as education, the researchers found that people with higher Mediterranean diet scores experienced slower cognitive decline.

In contrast, higher scores based on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines were not associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline.

While these early results are promising, additional research is needed before conclusions can be made.

For more information about the Mediterranean diet please visit Natural Standard's Health & Wellness database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
  2. Tangney CC, Kwasny MJ, Li H, et al. Adherence to a Mediterranean-type dietary pattern and cognitive decline in a community population. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Dec 22. View Abstract
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