Mediterranean diet and cognitive decline: using epidemiologic and pilot study data to inform a large-scale intervention

Year of award: 2016


  • Dr Claire McEvoy

    Queen's University Belfast

Project summary

Given the lack of effective treatments and projected increased prevalence of dementia, there is a need to identify strategies to prevent cognitive decline. The Mediterranean diet (MD) has anti-inflammatory and vascular benefits and may be neuroprotective. Meta-analyses have shown associations between MD adherence and protection against cognitive decline but evidence is limited. Further research is needed to investigate MD-associated neurological change from the earliest through to latest stages of cognitive decline. Intervention strategies require insight into mechanisms involved in diet-induced cognitive change and an understanding of how to support MD behaviour change, particularly in non-Mediterranean populations. 

We will integrate epidemiological and pilot behaviour change data to address identified gaps in existing knowledge and to inform the development of a large trial where the efficacy of an MD intervention to preserve cognitive function will be tested. We will comprehensively examine associations between MD adherence and cognitive function in non-Mediterranean populations, evaluate the feasibility of MD behaviour change in adults at high risk of cognitive decline and study mechanistic pathways by which an MD may act and identify cognitive outcomes most likely to respond to dietary change.

Our results will inform a large-scale intervention to protect against cognitive decline.