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