Background: The Mediterranean diet may be capable of improving cognitive function. However, the red meat restrictions of the diet could impact long-term adherence in Western populations. The current study therefore examined the cognitive effects of a Mediterranean diet with additional red meat.
Methods: A 24-week parallel crossover design compared a Mediterranean diet with 2-3 weekly servings of fresh, lean pork (MedPork) and a low-fat (LF) control diet. Thirty-five participants aged between 45 and 80 years and at risk of cardiovascular disease followed each intervention for 8 weeks, separated by an 8-week washout period. Cognitive function was assessed using the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery. Psychological well-being was measured through the SF-36 Health Survey and mood was measured using the Profile of Mood States (POMS).
Results: During the MedPork intervention, participants consumed an average of 3 weekly servings of fresh pork. Compared to LF, the MedPork intervention led to higher processing speed performance (p = 0.01) and emotional role functioning (p = 0.03). No other significant differences were observed between diets.
Conclusion: Our findings indicate that a Mediterranean diet inclusive of fresh, lean pork can be adhered to by an older non-Mediterranean population while leading to positive cognitive outcomes.
Keywords: MedDiet; ageing; cardiovascular disease; cognitive function; protein.