By John Salak –
Under the Debbie Downer category comes a report out of Chicago’s Rush Medical College that indicates no matter how much a person adheres to a healthy diet, it can all be undone by an occasional dive into a plate of “bad” food.
The medical college came to this disheartening conclusion after examining more than 5,000 adults over a three-year that included cognitive assessments coupled with questionnaires regarding how often these adults consumed certain foods.
“Eating a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruit, fish and whole grains may positively affects a person’s health,” reported Puja Agarwal, PhD, a nutritional epidemiologist and assistant professor at the college. “But when it is combined with fried food, sweets, refined grains, red meat and processed meat, we observed that the benefits of eating the Mediterranean part of the diet seems to be diminished.”
Ultimately, the healthy foods Rush identified fell loosely under the popular Mediterranean diet, which is associated with slower rates of cognitive decline in older adults. The study examined how closely each participant adhered to the healthy diet and how much they consumed a Western diet, which included the likes of fried foods, refined grains, sweets, red and processed meats, full-fat dairy products and pizza.
Researchers then examined the relative mental and cognitive faculties of those focused on the different diets. Individuals munching almost exclusively on healthy foods showed slower cognitive decline over the years. To make matters worse, those eating more of a Western diet registered no cognitive boost when switching to or consuming larger portions of healthy foods.
“Western diets may adversely affect cognitive health,” Agarwal said. “Individuals who had a high Mediterranean diet score compared to those who had the lowest score were equivalent to being 5.8 years younger in age cognitively.”
This Chicago-based research complements other studies that showed a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes and can have a positive impact on cognitive abilities, the Rush team reports.
“The more we can incorporate green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, berries, olive oil, and fish into our diets, the better it is for our aging brains and bodies. Other studies show that red and processed meat, fried food and low whole grains intake are associated with higher inflammation and faster cognitive decline in older ages,” Agarwal said. “To benefit from diets such as the Mediterranean diet, or MIND diet, we would have to limit our consumption of processed foods and other unhealthy foods such as fried foods and sweets.”