Mercato San Benedetto. Cagliari. Sardinia. Italy
The case grows for the protein- and vegetable-heavy diet. REDA&CO UIG via Getty Images

Could the Mediterranean Diet Help Fight Dementia? Here’s What We Know

Jul 17, 2017

The Mediterranean diet—long lauded for its links to good heart health and other potential benefits—just added another potential wellness claim to its arsenal: a significant boost to brain health and dementia prevention.

Several new studies presented at an ongoing Alzheimer's conference found that otherwise healthy adults who followed either a Mediterranean diet or close modifications to it had a substantially reduced risk for dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and other cognitive decline. These diets are generally heavy on fruits, vegetables, lean protein such as chicken and fish, olive oil, whole grains, and legumes while veering away from red meats and saturated fats like butter. Oh, and (moderate) servings of red wine are encouraged, too. Seriously.

Click here to subscribe to Brainstorm Health Daily, our brand new newsletter about health innovations.

"Eating a healthy plant-based diet is associated with better cognitive function and around 30% to 35% lower risk of cognitive impairment during aging," said University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine's Claire McEvoy, a lead author of one of the studies, according to CNN.

Those are some pretty impressive numbers. But to be clear, these are so-called observational studies, where much of the data is self-reported. And, as always, correlation isn't the same thing as causation.

But without an actual "randomized control trial" where a bunch of people are placed on a non-Mediterranean diet and another group on a Mediterranean diet for huge swaths of their lives (similar to the processes used for drug approvals), large-scale observational studies may be the best available resource, especially if they account for confounding factors. And there's now an impressive amount of medical literature suggesting high-protein, low-fat, whole grain, and veggie-filled diets are, at least for those who are otherwise healthy, associated with real health gains.

All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. FORTUNE may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.

Quotes delayed at least 15 minutes. Market data provided by Interactive Data. ETF and Mutual Fund data provided by Morningstar, Inc. Dow Jones Terms & Conditions: S&P Index data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Terms & Conditions. Powered and implemented by Interactive Data Managed Solutions