Nut-rich diet may protect brain

CLEVELAND CLINIC – Just when you thought the Mediterranean diet couldn't get any healthier ... a new Spanish study finds adding nuts or olive oil to the heart-healthy diet would help protect your brain, too.

"The fat from olive oil and the fat from nuts provide monounsaturated fatty-acids. So, those help the heart and now we're showing that it helps the brain," said Cleveland Clinic registered dietician Julia Zumpano.

Barcelona researchers studied nearly 450 elderly people, breaking them into three groups.

One group ate a Mediterranean diet with a liter of extra virgin olive oil per week.

A second supplemented the Mediterranean diet with 30 grams of nuts per day, including walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds.

The remaining participants followed a low-fat diet.

After an average of about four years, results showed the Mediterranean diet with olive oil, or nuts, may protect the brain better.

Better memory and thinking skills were seen in both group when compared to the low-fat diet group.

Researchers say diet may play a role in developing preventative strategies for dementia.

Zumpano says it's just one more reason to consider the Mediterranean diet.

"In general, we're finding that the Mediterranean diet is just the best way to go. It's a whole-foods- based diet, high in antioxidants because of its abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables and grains," she said.