A Mediterranean-style diet includes green vegetables, whole grains, fish, and healthy fats such as olive oil.
Doctors from Columbia University studied than 1800 seniors, most of whom had normal mental functioning at the start.
Around a quarter or participants already had moderate memory problems, a condition called MCI or mild cognitive impairment.
Over a period of 5 years, people who most closely followed a Mediterranean- style diet were less likely to experience declines in mental functioning.
Those with no memory problems at the start of the study had a 28 percent reduced risk of developing MCI if they adhered closely to the diet.
Among those with MCI at the start, Mediterranean-style dieters were 48 percent less likely to convert to full blown Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers say the diet has multiple benefits that help protect the brain, including lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels and reducing inflammation in the body.
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