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MedDiet has varied effects on cognitive decline among different races -- Ben-Gurion University researcher

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

BEER-SHEVA, ISRAEL July 16, 2014... While the Mediterranean diet may have broad health benefits, its impact on cognitive decline differs among race-specific populations, according to a new study published in the Journal of Gerontology.

The team of researchers, including Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU Prof. Danit R. Shahar RD, Ph.D, analyzed an NIH/NIA prospective cohort study [Health ABC] conducted over eight years in the U.S. to measure the effects of adherence to a Mediterranean diet. Prof. Shahar is affiliated with the BGU S. Daniel Abraham International Center for Health and Nutrition, Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences.

The Mediterranean-style diet (MedDiet) has fewer meat products and more plant-based foods and monounsaturated fatty acids from olive and canola oil (good) than a typical American diet.

To assess the association between MedDiet score and brain function, the researchers used data of several Modified Mini-Mental State Examinations (3MS) on 2,326 participating older adults (70-79). The 3MS is an extensively used and validated instrument designed to measure several cognitive domains to screen for cognitive impairment and commonly used to screen for dementia.

"In a population of initially well-functioning older adults, we found a significant correlation between strong adherence to the Mediterranean diet and a slower rate of cognitive decline among African American, but not white, older adults. Our study is the first to show a possible race-specific association between the Mediterranean diet and cognitive decline."

The researchers note that further studies in diverse populations are necessary to confirm association between the MedDiet and cognitive decline, and to pinpoint factors that may explain these results.


The study was funded in part by grants K24 AG 031155 and R01 AG 026720 from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Aging and grant IIRG-08-88872 from the Alzheimer's Association.

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2014 Jul 3. pii: glu097.

Association Between the Mediterranean Diet and Cognitive Decline in a Biracial Population.

Koyama A1, Houston DK2, Simonsick EM3, Lee JS4, Ayonayon HN5, Shahar DR6, Rosano C7, Satterfield S8, Yaffe K9

Author information

  • Northern California Institute For Research and Education, San Francisco. San Francisco VA Medical Center, California
  • Sticht Center on Aging, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  • Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Aging, Baltimore, Maryland.
  • University of Georgia, Athens
  • Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California San Francisco
  • S. Daniel International Center for Health and Nutrition, Department of Epidemiology and Health Evaluation, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
  • Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis
  • San Francisco VA Medical Center, California. Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California San Francisco. Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology, University of California San Francisco

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion's vision, creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University's expertise locally and around the globe. With some 20,000 students on campuses in Beer-Sheva, Sede Boqer and Eilat in Israel's southern desert, BGU is a university with a conscience, where the highest academic standards are integrated with community involvement, committed to sustainable development of the Negev. AABGU is headquartered in Manhattan and has nine regional offices throughout the U.S. For more information, please visit

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