In Summary

A new study looking at the impact of switching to a 10 day Mediterranean-style diet has suggested that even short term adherence was associated with benefits to mood and cardiovascular function.

Director of the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology, Professor Andrew Scholey from Swinburne University of Technology based the study on previous research supporting the benefits of the well-known diet.

“Earlier studies have shown the diet to be linked with reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Professor Scholey.

“We had conducted a small pilot study and found benefits of the Mediterranean diet after only 10 days and wanted to see if the effect could be replicated.”

A diet rich in fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, as well as moderate levels of oily fish, olive oil and dairy products, has been described as a ‘Mediterranean-style’ diet.

In the study, 24 healthy female participants aged 20-38 were randomly allocated to follow either a Mediterranean style eating plan, or to continue with their normal diet for 10 days. After the 10 day period the two groups switched their diets for another 10 days.

During the Mediterranean-style diet phase, participants were instructed to avoid meat, butter and margarine, caffeinated/energy drinks, as well as added sugars, salts and alcohol. They recorded their meals in a daily food diary.

Before and after their respective diets, participants completed validated mood questionnaires which measured aspects of mood such as alertness, contentment and calmness. A series of tests were used to measure cognitive performance (attention, working memory, long-term memory and executive functioning). Cardiovascular functioning was also evaluated.

“The most striking effect was on mood, where participants rated themselves as significantly more alert and content; the same measures that were enhanced in our pilot study. The effects on cognition were more mixed but included an improvement in simple word memory where, after switching to the Mediterranean diet, participants recalled on average two more items,” said Professor Scholey. 

There was also a significant positive effect of the Mediterranean-style diet on cardiovascular functioning and weight reduction.

“More research is necessary to see if these effects are specific to the Mediterranean diet and to see if they endure for longer periods in this population,” said Professor Scholey.

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