Brain-healthy Nutrients Found in the Mediterranean Diet

A new study published March, 2019 in NeuroImage tested the Mediterranean Diet to find the association between nutrition, cognition and MRI scans in seniors who did not have dementia. They did this to try to discover exactly which nutrient biomarker pattern (NBP) gives protection against brain disease and cognitive function. To get specific results they used MRI imaging.

Five Nutrient Biomarker Patterns

Results of their research came up with five nutrient biomarker patterns that were found to be associated with better cognitive function. These included biomarker patterns high in plasma. The five nutrient biomarker patterns were:

  1. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) (Omega-6) and (Omega-3) found in seeds like flax seeds, walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds, safflower seeds, canola oil, pumpkin seeds
  2. Lycopene found in tomatoes, water melon and other red vegetables
  3. PUFAs (Omega-3) found in oily fish and in some fortified foods like eggs
  4. Carotenoids found in carrots, yams, sweet potatoes and apricots
  5. Vitamins B (riboflavin, folate, B12) and Vitamin D found in whole grains, green leafy vegetables and fish (note: Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products and not found in the plant world. Vitamin D is mainly derived from sunshine and also found in oily fish)

The Study

The study assessed the blood of 116 healthy seniors between the ages of 65 and 76 for specific nutrients that could help make better brain function. They wanted to be more accurate than the kind of dietary information that they could have received from questionnaires to the seniors. They used MRI imaging to see how well the brain network was performing.


The researchers found that increased brain network efficiency was linked with Omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids and carotenoids. Specifically omega-3 fatty acids were connected to a brain network dealing with intelligence and omega-6 fatty acids were connected with a brain network dealing with executive function.

After testing 40 of the participants after two more years, the researchers determined that it was important to eat these kinds of nutrients over a long period of time.

The Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle

During the 1950s researchers noted that people living in countries bordering around the Mediterranean Sea had lower rates of cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes), lower rates of diabetes and other chronic diseases and dementia than people living in other areas. Since then researchers have been fascinated with the Mediterranean Diet and are trying to unlock the secrets of its health benefits. The Mediterranean Diet is high in fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, fish, whole grains and extra virgin olive oil. It is low in red meat and dairy foods, except for fermented dairy foods like yogurt, sour milk and some kinds of cheese. Wine is drunk in small amounts mainly with meals. Most research has focused on the extra virgin olive oil, as it is the main oil and fat in most Mediterranean countries.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Found to be Heart Healthy

Extra virgin olive oil has been found to be very protective of blood vessels and is considered the most heart-healthy oil. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-pain properties. It has been found very beneficial for protecting the lining of the stomach and intestinal tract against irritating substances. In the lab a substance called oleocanthol has been found to kill human cancer cells. Olive oil also contains compounds found to be beneficial in wound healing.

Anti-aging properties have also been found in the Mediterranean Diet. See our blog post from April 11, 2018 for more about anti-aging and the Mediterranean Diet.

Choose a Rehab that Puts Emphasis on Healthy Nutrition

The Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in scenic Galloway Township, New Jersey offers fine restaurant-style dining and healthy delicious cuisine by a chef under the guidance of a registered dietitian.


It certainly pays to follow this kind of diet as research has shown it promotes good health and longevity.

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