Supplements popularly referred to as ‘nootropics’ are the most trendy way to protect and boost cognitive performance, but yet another study has found that changing the foods you eat may be the easiest method. The study looked into eye diseases and the effects of different diets on them, finding that eating the popular Mediterranean diet may have a protective effect on brain health, preserving cognitive performance and lowering risks of dementia in old age.
The Mediterranean diet refers to an eating protocol that emphasizes plant-based foods, healthy oils like olive oil, and moderate amounts of animal products with a focus on seafood rather than red meats. A large body of research on this diet and its health potential exists, a substantial portion of which has found favorable links between the diet and many conditions.
The latest study comes from the National Eye Institute (NEI), where researchers looked into the effects of nine Mediterranean diet foods on cognition, among other things. These ‘components’ include things like low consumption of alcohol and red meats, as well as high consumption of foods like whole fruit and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and olive oil.
The researchers used standardized tests to evaluate the cognitive function of the studies’ participants who were part of two Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2). In the first of those two studies, the researchers evaluated the participants’ cognitive function after five years; in the second study, the participants were evaluated at intervals for a decade.
The participants whose diets best adhered to the Mediterranean protocol were found to have the lowest risks of suffering from cognitive impairment. Of those dietary aspects, the researchers found that eating large quantities of vegetables and fish likely had the most protective effect. After a decade of follow up, the AREDS2 study found that the people who ate the most fish experienced the slowest rate of mental decline, hinting at the effect diet has on one’s cognition over time.