Phytochemical rich diet Central Nervous System Status
A Mediterranean diet is characterized by the use of virgin olive oil as the main culinary fat; high consumption of fruits, nuts, vegetables and pulses; moderate to high consumption of fish and seafood; low consumption of dairy products and red meat; and moderate intake of red wine.
In the first long term trial to look at the impact of the Mediterranean diet on brain power, 522 men and women aged (55 – 80 all taking part in the PREDIMED trial) without cardiovascular disease, but at high vascular risk because of underlying disease/conditions such as type 2 diabetes or three of the following: high blood pressure; an unfavourable blood fat profile; overweight; a family history of early cardiovascular disease; and being a smoker.
Participants were randomized to one of 3 groups: 1) a Mediterranean diet with added olive oil or 2) a Mediterranean diet with added mixed nuts or 3) a control group receiving advice to follow the low-fat diet typically recommended to prevent heart attack and stroke.
After an average of 6.5 years, they were tested for signs of cognitive decline and higher brain functions (orientation, memory, language, visuospatial and visuoconstruction abilities and executive functions such as working memory, attention span) and abstract thinking using the Mini Mental State Exam and a clock drawing test.
Regardless of factors such as age, family history of cognitive impairment or dementia, the presence of ApoE protein (epsilon), educational attainment, exercise levels, vascular riskfactors, energy intake and depression, the average scores on both tests were significantly higher for those following either of the Mediterranean diets compared with those on the low fat option.
95 participants had developed either mild cognitive impairment or dementia: 30 on the olive oil supplemented Mediterranean diet; 25 on the Mediterranean diet with added mixed nuts; and 40 on the control group.
The average scores significantly higher for those following either of the Mediterranean diets compared with those on the low fat option.
The authors from the University of Navarra in Spain acknowledge that their sample size was relatively small, and that because the study involved a group at high vascular risk, it doesn’t necessarily follow that their findings are applicable to the general population. However these outcomes point at what I suggest in my lecture, Ecological Pharmacology. A phytochemical rich diet preserves organ reserve, or loss of function.