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Published On: Tue, Jul 7th, 2020

Mediterranean diet rich in fish and whole grains can keep the brain sharp, research suggests

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Participants who stuck most closely to the Mediterranean diet had the lowest risk of cognitive impairment and had a higher performance on cognitive tests

By COLIN FERNANDEZ

The Mediterranean diet not only helps you live longer but it can keep the brain sharp too, research has found.
Scientists found that those who consumed plenty of ­vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and fish had the lowest risk of cognitive impairment in their latter years.
Cognitive impairment covers when a person has trouble remembering, learning things, concentrating or making decisions that impact on their everyday life. The study, published in the Alzheimer’s and Dementia ­journal, found that those with a diet high in fish had a slower rate of decline.
Crucially, the researchers found that the Mediterranean diet even appeared to benefit participants with a higher genetic risk of Alzheimer’s – those carrying the APOE gene which greatly increases chances of developing the disease.
High fish and vegetable consumption were linked to the most protective effect. Lead author Dr Emily Chew, from the National Eye Institute, in Maryland, US, said: ‘Closer adherence to a Mediterranean-type diet was associated with lower risk of cognitive impairment but not slower decline in cognitive function. However, higher fish consumption was significantly associated with slower cognitive decline.’
Scientists aimed to understand whether sticking closely to a Mediterranean diet would impact cognition, after a series of previous studies proved inconsistent. Mediterranean foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish and olive oil were analysed, as well as reduced consumption of red meat and alcohol.
The researchers studied two trials of nearly 8,000 elderly people with varying severity of AMD – an age-related eye condition.
Both groups were assessed for their diet, with the first set’s cognitive function tested at five years, while the second were tested at two, four and ten years. Participants who stuck most closely to the Mediterranean diet had the lowest risk of cognitive impairment and had a higher performance on cognitive tests.
The evidence was strongest for those who maintained but did not substantially alter their diet and those with the highest fish consumption had the slowest rate of cognitive decline.
Dr Chew added: ‘These findings may help inform evidence-based dietary recommendations, adding strength to evidence that Mediterranean-type diet patterns may maximise cognitive reserve against impairment and dementia.’
Both groups were assessed for their diet, with the first set’s cognitive function tested at five years, while the second were tested at two, four and ten years. Participants who stuck most closely to the Mediterranean diet had the lowest risk of cognitive impairment and had a higher performance on cognitive tests.
The evidence was strongest for those who maintained but did not substantially alter their diet and those with the highest fish consumption had the slowest rate of cognitive decline.

 

HOW CAN YOU KEEP FIT DURING PREGNANCY?

The more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain. It will also help you to cope with labour and get back into shape after the birth.
Keep up your normal daily physical activity or exercise (sport, running, yoga, dancing, or even walking to the shops and back) for as long as you feel comfortable.
Exercise is not dangerous for your baby – there is some evidence that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour.
Exercise tips when you’re pregnant:
• always warm up before exercising and cool down afterwards
• try to keep active on a daily basis: half an hour of walking each day can be enough, but if you can’t manage that, any amount is better than nothing
• avoid any strenuous exercise in hot weather
• drink plenty of water and other fluids
• if you go to exercise classes, make sure your teacher is properly qualified, and knows that you’re pregnant
• you might like to try swimming because the water will support your increased weight
• exercises that have a risk of falling, such as horse riding, downhill skiing, ice hockey, gymnastics and cycling, should only be done with caution. Falls may risk damage to the baby
Exercises to avoid in pregnancy:
• don’t lie flat on your back for prolonged periods, particularly after 16 weeks, because the weight of your bump presses on the main blood vessel bringing blood back to your heart and this can make you feel faint
• don’t take part in contact sports where there’s a risk of being hit, such as kickboxing, judo or squash
• don’t go scuba diving, because the baby has no protection against decompression sickness and gas embolism
• don’t exercise at heights over 2,500m above sea level until you have acclimatised: this is because you and your baby are at risk of altitude sickness
For more information, visit the NHS website.

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