People who eat a healthy diet including plenty of fruit, vegetables, nuts and fish may be less prone to failing memory and thinking skills, new research published today reveals.
The diet was also low in red meat and only involved a moderate intake of alcohol, according to the study led by Dr Andrew Smyth of the Health Research Board Clinical Research Facility in NUI Galway and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
"The exciting thing about this study is that this benefit was found in people who were at high risk of cardiovascular problems and suggests that a healthy diet could be beneficial even for people who already have some health problems," he said.
Some 27,860 people in 40 countries were followed for an average of about five years, the study published in Neurology revealed. A total of 4,699 people had a decline in their thinking and memory skills.
Those with healthiest diets were 24pc less likely to see a decline.
All participants were 55 or older and had diabetes or a history of heart disease, stroke or peripheral artery disease.
People who had experienced a recent stroke, congestive heart failure and other serious conditions were not included. Memory and thinking skills were tested at the start of the study, after two years and repeated after five years.
Participants were asked at the beginning of the study how often they ate certain types of foods, including fruits and vegetables, nuts and soy proteins, whole grains, deep fried foods and drank alcohol, as well as the ratio of fish to meat and eggs in their diet.
They were followed until they experienced health difficulties or until the end of the study.