The Mediterranean dietary pattern has been associated with a decreased risk of many degenerative diseases and cognitive function in particular; however, relevant information from Mediterranean regions, where the prototype Mediterranean diet is typically adhered to, have been very limited. Additionally, predefined Mediterranean diet (MeDi) scores with use of a priori cut-offs have been used very rarely, limiting comparisons between different populations and thus external validity of the associations. Finally, associations between individual components of MeDi (i.e., food groups, macronutrients) and particular aspects of cognitive performance have rarely been explored. We evaluated the association of adherence to an a priori defined Mediterranean dietary pattern and its components with dementia and specific aspects of cognitive function in a representative population cohort in Greece.
Participants from the Hellenic Longitudinal Investigation of Ageing and Diet (HELIAD), an on-going population-based study, exploring potential associations between diet and cognitive performance in a representative sample from Greek regions, were included in this analysis. Diagnosis of dementia was made by a full clinical and neuropsychological evaluation, while cognitive performance was assessed according to five cognitive domains (memory, language, attention-speed, executive functioning, visuospatial perception) and a composite cognitive score. Adherence to MeDi was evaluated by an a priori score (range 0-55), derived from a detailed food frequency questionnaire.
Among 1,865 individuals (mean age 73±6 years, 41% male), 90 were diagnosed with dementia and 223 with mild cognitive impairment. Each unit increase in the Mediterranean dietary score (MedDietScore) was associated with a 10% decrease in the odds for dementia. Adherence to the MeDi was also associated with better performance in memory, language, visuospatial perception and the composite cognitive score; the associations were strongest for memory. Fish consumption was negatively associated with dementia and cognitive performance positively associated with non-refined cereal consumption.
Our results suggest that adherence to the MeDi is associated with better cognitive performance and lower dementia rates in Greek elders. Thus, the MeDi in its a priori constructed prototype form may have cognitive benefits in traditional Mediterranean populations.