The largest study to date indicates eating foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids—found in foods including fish, flaxseed and chicken—and avoiding saturated fats, meat and dairy foods may be linked to preserving memory and thinking abilities.

“Since there are no definitive treatments for most dementing illnesses, modifiable activities, such as diet, that may delay the onset of symptoms of dementia are very important,” said Georgios Tsivgoulis, M.D., with the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Athens, Greece. Tsivgoulis is also a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study found that in healthy people, those who more closely followed the Mediterranean diet were 19 percent less likely to develop problems with their thinking and memory skills, according to an American Academy of Neurology press release. There was not a significant difference in declines between African-Americans and Caucasians. However, the Mediterranean diet was not associated with a lower risk of thinking and memory problems in people with diabetes.

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