The Mediterranean diet has often been pointed out as the best and healthiest diet, with a number of proven health benefits, including: lower risk of heart and coronary disease, lower risk of diabetes type II, lowered risk of developing Parkinson, dementia and many more.
There have been numerous studies and research done on the benefits of this diet, and one of the conclusions found is that a Mediterranean diet, especially with some added olive oil and nuts can truly help improve the memory of older people.
While the Mediterranean diet generally does include consuming more legumes, starches, vegetables, fish, raw nuts, and extra virgin olive oil, which is typical of this region, a long-term clinical trial in Spain involving adding even more extra virgin olive oil and nuts to the daily diet of people in their 60’s and 70’s, and the results of the tests held do show improvement of cognitive function and memory as well as a reduction of risk of heart disease.
The logic behind this finding is that good quality extra virgin olive oil and nuts contain polyphenols, which help reduce and stop inflammation and oxidation, and thus improve the condition and functioning of the brain and the blood vessels in the body. These natural antioxidants are very beneficial for the circulation of the blood, for the brain function especially in age related cognitive problems, as well as for the reduction of health risks and inflammation.
The experts who participated in this PERIMED trial though have issued a warning that there is a difference between the different types of olive oil and nuts, and that only the high quality and extra-virgin olive oil provided these benefits, and that raw nuts are a better source than roasted ones.
But please remember that these wonderful foods must be consumed in moderation, because apart from being full of healthy compounds, they are very high in calorie value. Overeating with one or both can cause weight gain and all issues which result from this.
Another systematic review of 11 electronic databases of articles on the subject and conclusions of studies of the association between dementia and cognitive function and the Mediterranean diet has concluded that there is quite a permanent consistence of the results found in all of them, and that the Mediterranean diet can in fact slow down the decline of cognitive function associated with aging, and does lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.
In a study led by Dr. Emilio Ros Head of the Lipid Clinic in Barcelona, Spain, the results of a trial including three groups of adults who were assigned with three different diets: the Mediterranean diet with an extra 1 liter of extra virgin olive oil per week, the Mediterranean diet with an extra 30 grams of nuts per day and a low-fat diet. The results of the cognitive tests and brain function examinations done before and after four years of the trial showed that the people who had adherently followed the assigned Mediterranean diet with the extra olive oil demonstrated an improved cognitive function and those who had the same diet but with the added nuts showed improvement of memory.
So, while all these studies and research do not give definitive evidence of an actual correlation between extra virgin olive oil and nuts and the improvement of cognitive function and memory, there is a strongly suggested beneficial effect of the Mediterranean diet with its excellent high quality extra virgin oil and raw nuts and an overall improvement of the brain and body functions and health.
This is quite logical, given the fact that the human brain is made of about 60% fat, which comes mainly from the food consumed, including: oleic acid, omega-3 fatty acids from fish and walnuts, as well as unsaturated fat in olive oil, nuts and avocados – all leading components in the famous Mediterranean diet.
I would add that it pays to be a little careful with olive oil, as a lot of what’s in the grocery stores is either rancid or cut with other stuff. For the best oil at a good price, I usually by CA Olive Ranch oil (consistently good), which runs about $10/liter.
No, I don’t work for them. I just live on a budget and try to ensure that I don’t buy crap.
Anyway, I like the stuff and go through it like crazy. If you do dairy, Kerrygold is a good way to get the nutrients in grass-fed dairy fats. It usually runs me about $5.60/lb (latest $2.79 for 8oz) in northern Virginia.
I also buy coconut oil in bulk on Amazon… usually Nutiva. I get two large jars of it (a little spendy up front, but it lasts my family of four close to six months).
I can’t speak for the other Mediterranean cultures, but in the Greek diet, red meat may not be eaten as often as fish simply because we couldn’t afford to be eating it all the time and was not as plentiful in the villages. It’s not because we don’t like it as much. It all comes down to what is available to you and what you can afford.
The secret of eating like a Greek is that the food is local, in season and meat is used sparingly. To suggest that Americans could possibly survive on a bowl of bean soup 4 times a week and a 3oz piece of meat every Sunday is just a waste of a perfectly good article.
I visited Greece 2 years ago. I sat with a Greek family of 5 to eat and they served pasta with shrimp and a salad. ONE box of pasta and 1/2 lb of shrimp for 6 people. I remember thinking that the portion was 1/4 of what I could ever get away serving my family.
That is the secret of the Greek diet not just the type of food but the quality and QUANTITY.
What about the apparent paradox that the Mediterranean diet is high in sodium? It includes highly salted foods such as olives, salt-cured cheeses, anchovies, capers, salted fish roe and salads dressed with olive oil. By conventional standards such salt intake would be sure to cause high blood pressure. I never read about this factor in these pro-Mediterranean diet articles.