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Consuming a Mediterranean diet—rich in olive oil, nuts, as well as fruits, vegetables, and legumes, and limited amounts of dairy products, red meat, soda drinks, processed meats, and sweets— with added extra-virgin olive oil or mixed nuts, improves the brain power of older men and women at high vascular risk due to underlying diseases or conditions.

Nikolaos Scarmeas, from Columbia University Medical Center (New York, USA), and colleagues studied 522 men and women, ages 55 to 80 years, who were absent of cardiovascular disease but at high vascular risk due to underlying diseases or conditions—such as type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood fats, overweight, and other factors. Study subjects consumed a Mediterranean diet for an average of 6.5 years, either supplemented with added extravirgin olive oil or mixed nuts; or a low-fat regimen. At the end of the study period the subjects were tested for signs of cognitive decline via standardized assessments. The researchers found that 60 subjects developed mild cognitive impairment: 18 on the olive oil supplemented Mediterranean diet; 19 on the diet with added mixed nuts; 23 in the control group. A further 35 subjects developed dementia: 12 on the added olive oil diet; six on the diet with added mixed nuts; 17 in the control group. The average scores on standardized cognitive testing were significantly higher for those subjects following either of Mediterranean diet variations, as compared to those in the control group. The team suggests that this study is the first long-term trial to assess the type of Mediterranean diet on brain power, and that it adds to the increasing body of evidence suggesting that a high-quality dietary pattern seems to protect cognitive function in the aging brain.


  1. Nikolaos Scarmeas. “Mediterranean food for thought?” J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry, 3 June 2013.