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Adding Olive Oil Nuts to Diet Boosts Aging Brain Health

Healthy eating plans help older people stay sharper mentally

TUESDAY, May 12, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Adding more olive oil or nuts to a Mediterranean diet -- one rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains and low in red meat -- may help improve cognitive function with advancing age, a new study suggests. The report was published online May 11 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Emilio Ros, M.D., Ph.D., director of the lipid clinic at the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, Spain, and colleagues collected data on 447 older adults between 2003 and 2009. Their average age was 67. All of the participants were at high risk for cardiovascular disease, but had no reported problems with memory or cognition. Participants were randomly assigned to add a liter of extra virgin olive oil per week to their Mediterranean diet, or to supplement their Mediterranean diet with 30 grams per day of a mixture of walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds. Others followed a low-fat diet.

Cognitive changes over time were assessed with a battery of memory, attention, and cognition tests. Complete data on 334 patients were available for analysis, with an average follow-up of four years. In both groups following a Mediterranean diet, the researchers saw improvements in tests of memory and cognition compared to the group on the low-fat diet.

"You can delay the onset of age-related mental decline with a healthy diet rich in foods with a high antioxidant power, such as virgin olive oil and nuts," Ros told HealthDay. "Because the average age of participants was 67 when the trial began, one can say that it is never too late to change your diet to maintain or even improve brain function."

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