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Mediterranean diet tied to better memory for people with diabetes

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People with diabetes may have better brain function if they follow a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish and healthy fats, a US study reported by Reuters suggests.

 

Mediterranean diets have long been linked to better heart and brain health as well as a lower risk of developing diabetes.

 

But research to date hasn't offered a clear picture of whether any cognitive benefits of eating this way might differ for people with and without diabetes, said lead researcher Josiemer Mattei of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

 

"A healthy Mediterranean diet includes foods that are rich in fruit and vegetables, which has antioxidants, and in fish and oils, which include healthy fats," Professor Mattei said.

 

"These nutrients help sustain cognitive function by reducing inflammation and oxidation in the brain."

 

These benefits may help people whether or not they have diabetes.

 

When people do have diabetes, however, the abundance of whole grains and legumes in a typical Mediterranean diet may help keep blood glucose at healthy levels and improve cognitive function, Prof Mattei said.

 

As reported in Diabetes Care, researchers followed 913 participants in the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study over two years, assessing their eating habits, testing for type 2 diabetes, and administering a series of tests for cognitive function, memory, and executive function.

 

For diet evaluations, researchers scored participants' eating habits based on how much they consumed of the main foods that make up a Mediterranean diet, plus how much they ate of foods typically included in two other types of heart-healthy diets.

 

Among people without diabetes, more closely following a Mediterranean diet was associated with memory improvements during the study period, but not with changes in other types of cognitive function. For these participants, the other two heart-healthy diets were both tied to better cognitive function.

 

For people with diabetes, however, the Mediterranean diet was associated with a wide range of improvements in brain health.

 

People with diabetes who more closely followed a Mediterranean diet had bigger gains in cognitive function, word recognition, and clock drawing skills than their counterparts who didn't eat this way.

 

When people had diabetes, the brain health benefits of the Mediterranean diet were limited to individuals who had blood glucose that stayed in a healthy range at the start of the study or experienced improvements in blood glucose levels during the study.

 

There wasn't a clear benefit for people who started the study with high blood glucose levels or individuals who got worse during the study.

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