Better cognition and academic performance are associated with Mediterranean diet adherence

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In a recent study published in Nutrients, researchers investigated the relationship between various Mediterranean-style eating patterns and cognitive and academic performance among adolescent residents of Chile.

Study: Adolescents with a Favorable Mediterranean-Style-Based Pattern Show Higher Cognitive and Academic Achievement: A Cluster Analysis—The Cogni-Action Project. Image Credit: YuliiaHolovchenko/Shutterstock.comStudy: Adolescents with a Favorable Mediterranean-Style-Based Pattern Show Higher Cognitive and Academic Achievement: A Cluster Analysis—The Cogni-Action Project. Image Credit: YuliiaHolovchenko/Shutterstock.com

Background

The Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) is a healthy eating pattern associated with higher cognitive and academic success among teenagers in developing nations.

It consists of high extra-virgin olive oil, vegetable, fruit, grain, nut, and legume consumption, moderate fish, meat, and dairy product consumption, and low egg and sweet consumption. The MedDiet promotes reducing the intake of processed and sugary foods, alcohol, and smoking.

The Western diet (WD), which includes ultra-processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and sugar, has been associated with cognitive decline in youngsters. In contrast, the MedDiet increases well-being and increased cognitive function.

However, the association between MedDiet and academic and cognitive abilities in teenagers has not been thoroughly explored in Latina communities.

About the study

In the present study, researchers explored the association between different Mediterranean-style eating patterns and cognitive and academic ability in Chilean adolescents.

The study was part of the Cogni-Action Project, which ran from March 2017 to October 2019 and involved 1,296 Chilean adolescents (males and females in a 1:1 ratio) aged 10 to 14 years from private, public, and subsidized (government-funded) schools in Chile.

The researchers performed a cluster analysis to uncover dietary trends and mixed modeling to examine the associations of diet clusters with cognition and academics.

The researchers used the MedDiet Quality Index to measure MedDiet adherence in children and adolescents and the NeuroCognitive Performance Test (NCPT) to assess cognitive performance.

They used principal component analysis (PCA) to uncover four cognitive domains: cognitive flexibility (CF), working memory (WM), fluid reasoning (FR), and inhibitory control (IC).

They assessed CF basis Trail-making tests A and B and Digit coding symbol tasks. WM tasks included memory forward and memory reverse, and the IC and FR assessments included the Go/No-Go and problem-solving tasks, respectively.

The researchers assessed academic success across five school disciplines (English, Language, Science, History, and Mathematics), including the Academic-Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) score calculated as the mean of Mathematics, Science, and Language scores.

The study consisted of two sessions of participant evaluation spread over eight days. The first session evaluated body weight, height, waist circumference, eating habits, sociodemographic information, and a cognitive battery. The second session evaluated physical fitness using three factors (sex, maturity, and global fitness score).

Results

The team identified the following diet patterns: Western diet (WD, 4.3%), low fruits and vegetables, high-sugar diet (LFV-HSD, 28%), low fruits and vegetables, low-sugar diet (LFV-LSD, 42%), and MedDiet (25%).

There was a remarkable difference among the dietary clusters, primarily related to ultra-processed food, sugar, vegetable, and fruit intake.

Individuals in the Mediterranean diet group scored better in all cognitive domains compared to the Western diet, LFV-LSD, and LFV-HSD groups. The Western diet group underperformed academically in all assessments compared to other groups.

The Mediterranean diet was unique, attaining positive differences among all subjects compared to the LFV-HSD and Western diet groups.

The WD group exhibited lower performance across all cognitive domains than the MedDiet group except for inhibitory control. The MedDiet group showed positive differences in total cognitive performance, cognitive flexibility, inhibitory control, and working memory compared to the LFV-LSD cluster. However, fluid reasoning was not significantly different.

The Western diet group individuals underperformed in academic analyses than those in other groups. The Mediterranean diet cluster showed a significant difference in school students compared to the LFV-HSD and WD groups.

The MedDiet group scored better across all academic subjects than their LFV-LSD group counterparts; however, the differences did not attain statistical significance.

Conclusions

The study findings showed that Mediterranean-style eating patterns and higher-quality food preferences are related to superior adolescent academic and cognitive outcomes.

The study highlighted four dietary patterns: Western diet, LFV-LSD, LFV-HSD, and MedDiet, determined by adolescent adherence to or lack of particular MedDiet components. These clusters had significant disparities in the intakes of fruits, vegetables, junk food items, sugar, and fish.

The study implies that implementing total and intermediate adherence to MedDiet patterns in non-Mediterranean teenagers might be a viable first step in nutrition and public health, with superior outcomes in brain health and academic attainment.

A complete Mediterranean-style diet was associated with better academics and cognitive status than the Western diet.

Journal reference:
Pooja Toshniwal Paharia

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Pooja Toshniwal Paharia

Dr. based clinical-radiological diagnosis and management of oral lesions and conditions and associated maxillofacial disorders.

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