Following a Mediterranean diet may contribute to better performance in memory and thinking in older adults, according to a study from the University of Edinburgh.

Researchers tested the thinking skills of more than 500 people aged 79 and without dementia.

Participants reported their eating habits during the previous year, then completed tests for problem solving, thinking speed, memory and word knowledge.

More than 350 members of the group also underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan to assess their brain structure. Using statistical models, researchers looked for associations between diet, thinking skills and brain health in later life.

While their study did not find any links between diet and brain aging—through greater gray or white matter volume, or white matter legions—it did show a noticeable association between diet and thinking skills.

Participants who most closely adhered to a Mediterranean diet had the highest cognitive function scores, even when factoring in childhood IQ, smoking, physical activity and other health factors.

Researchers believe the Mediterranean diet benefits thinking skills due to its abundance of green leafy vegetables and reduced red meat portions.

The findings add more support for the much-lauded Mediterranean diet and emphasize the importance of a healthy diet for aging adults.

Read the full study in Experimental Gerontology (2020; doi: doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxaa219).