Background: Some published studies reported beneficial effects of the Mediterranean Diet (MedDiet) on cognitive function in an aging population. But evidence from a limited number of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) is scarce and inconsistent. It is not clear whether a MedDiet offers benefits in maintaining cognitive function or in preventing cognitive decline in the older adult.
Methods: An exhaustive search of online medical literature was performed using MEDLINE-PubMed, Web of Science, and CINAHL-EBSCO. Keywords used included: Mediterranean Diet, cognition, cognitive function decline, and older adult population. Articles that assessed cognitive function through RCTs in an aging population on the Mediterranean diet were selected. The quality of relevant articles was evaluated using the GRADE guidelines.
Results: Nine articles were reviewed for relevancy and 3 studies that were RCTs and met eligibility criteria were chosen for analysis. The first study was done on a group of an older Mediterranean population with cardiovascular (CV) risk factors. It was not originally designed to do a cognitive function assessment, which was done at the end using two screening tests. The second study was a post hoc analysis of the first study and used a comprehensive battery of neurophysiological tests to analyze cognitive function. Both of the above studies found that a long-term adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with an improved cognitive function. The third study was done on a healthy Australian population staying on the MedDiet for a short period of time. No significant statistical differences in cognitive functioning were detected in healthy older adults. The overall quality of the studies is low to moderate based on Grade guidelines.
Conclusion: Studies investigating the MedDiet as a prevention of cognitive decline due to aging fail to provide strong evidence of its beneficial effect. Further research with larger study samples and longer periods of time is necessary to produce a better quality of evidence regarding a benefit of MedDiet in an aging population.
Keywords: Mediterranean diet, cognition, cognitive function decline, older adult population.
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