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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Mediterranean Diet May Save Brainpower

Study Shows a Benefit of Mediterranean Diet May Be Slower Mental Decline as People Age

Following the Mediterranean Diet continued...

There was some effect in the medium group, Tangney says, but no effect in the group that adhered the least.

The beauty of the finding, Tangney tells WebMD, is that following the diet perfectly isn't necessary to get a brain-protective effect. "When someone incorporates a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and non-refined grains such as cereals and breads and breaks it up with a little wine, there appears to be at least some protection against cognitive aging," she says.

While Tangney's team didn’t inquire about exercise habits, she says physical activity would be ideal to add to the Greek-like diet. "The true Mediterranean diet advocates lots of physical activity," she says.

Second Opinion

The study results ''are significant in that it tells us something may be going on'' with the Greek-like diet and mental skills, says Bruce Semon, MD, PhD, a Milwaukee doctor who reviewed the study findings for WebMD.

''It's a moderate effect," he says of the two-year improvement found in the study.

Because the researchers looked at the diet as a whole, he says, it's difficult to separate out which food or foods deserve credit for preserving brainpower.

Tangney says that's a plus of the study. Many studies have focused on individual nutrients and their effect on health.

But her research looks at the ''big picture" of the Mediterranean diet and finds benefits for those who follow it closely, but not perfectly.

Her advice? ''Eat lots of whole grains, legumes, and beans. Have an occasional glass of wine."

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