Another reason to splurge on good olive oil.

By Gillie Houston
Updated May 24, 2017

If it seems like everyone's been obsessing over the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet lately, you're not wrong. And now there's another reason to stock up on olive oil: A group of researchers from the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, released findings this week that showed that adhering to a Mediterranean eating plan could keep you smarter longer.

Their research, which was published in the journal Frotiers in Nutrition, found that on top of previously confirmed benefits—including lowering the risk of heart disease, lowering cholesterol and even reducing the risk of breast cancer—the Mediterreanean diet could also slow cognitive decline and even prevent the development of Alzheimer's.

As it's commonly defined, a Mediterranean diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and healthy fats like olive oil, and also favors fish over red meat and herbs and spices over salt. Eating this way appears to be good for many parts of your body, and as the Swinburne team found, the brain is no exception.

According to Medical News Today, lead author Roy Hardman and his team of researchers analyzed the results of 135 studies between 2000-2015 and included 18 of those in their review of how the diet affects long-term brain function. Participants in each of these studies were asked to eat Mediterranean and were given cognitive tests periodically to analyze how their mental performance changed over time.

The researchers found that people who really stuck to the diet showed slower cognitive decline and were less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. They also showed improvements in language, attention and memory.

Though the study didn't pinpoint exactly why the Mediterranean diet improves brain function, Harman says a number of elements could be responsible. "These include reducing inflammatory responses, increasing micronutrients, improving vitamin and mineral imbalances, changing lipid profiles by using olive oils as the main source of dietary fats, maintaining weight and potentially reducing obesity," he says.