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Mediterranean diet could improve brain function of people with type 2 diabetes

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A Mediterranean diet could improve the memory and cognitive function of people with type 2 diabetes, according to US research.

The Mediterranean diet is made up of vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts, seeds and healthy fats, and has previously been linked to improved brain and heart health and also a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

This study from the Boston-based Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health investigated whether its positive impact on cognitive function differs depending on whether or not people have type 2 diabetes.

In the study, the team analysed 913 people from the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study over a two-year period, examining their diet, cognitive function and memory. They were also tested for type 2 diabetes.

Eating habits were recorded according to the Mediterranean diet score, Healthy Eating Index, Alternate Healthy Eating Index, and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension score.

According to the results, those with type 2 diabetes who adhered closely to the Mediterranean diet experienced improved cognitive function compared with their counterparts not on the die. These improvements included word recognition as well as clock drawing skills .

When the researchers delved deeper into the statistics, they found the cognitive improvements remained applicable to people with type 2 diabetes and either well-controlled blood glucose levels at the beginning of the research or those who experienced improvements in blood glucose control during the two-year study. However, clear evidence of improved cognition was not found overall for those with type 2 diabetes who did not achieve well-controlled blood glucose.

Meanwhile, improvements in memory among those without type 2 diabetes were observed in relation to higher diet quality across all of the scores and indexes used.

The study suggests that the Mediterranean diet may confer benefits beyond other diet types for people with type 2 diabetes. It also showed that for people without diabetes, similar improvements in memory were possible with less difference between the type of diet followed, as long as they were sticking well to general healthy eating principles.

Dr Josiemer Mattei, who led the study and is, said: “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. These nutrients help sustain cognitive function by reducing inflammation and oxidation in the brain.”

The way in which the study was run cannot conclusively show that the Mediterranean diet is a better diet than the other diet options that were also scored against. What the study can provide is an indication that the Mediterranean diet may have properties that could make it well suited to type 2 diabetes.

The study was published in the journal Diabetes Care.

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