The Mediterranean diet has been touted as one of the healthiest meal plans to follow. The gist? Prioritize olive oil, fruits and veggies, nuts and legumes, whole grains, and a moderate amount of fresh fish and red wine. Unfortunately, that can be a tough ask for people who love red meat—like Americans and Australians. But new research from the University of South Australia shows that adding lean pork to the Mediterranean diet (the Med-Pork diet), can produce many of the same cognitive health benefits and might be easier for carnivores to follow.
“By adding pork to the Mediterranean diet, we’re broadening the appeal of the diet, while also delivering improved cognitive function,” Alexandra Wade, one of the authors of the study, said in a blog post.
In their study, the researchers set out to compare the Med-Pork diet with a traditional low-fat diet. Researchers chose the low-fat diet as the control group because it’s often advertised as a way to prevent chronic diseases, like cardiovascular disease. They also chose it to emulate another larger study on the Mediterranean diet, which used a low-fat diet as a control group.
In total, the researchers chose 35 participants between the ages of 45 and 80, who were at risk of cardiovascular disease, and tracked them for eight weeks. Those in the Med-Pork group ate a Mediterranean diet with 2 to 3 servings of fresh, lean pork added in each week. The Med-Pork group showed improved cognitive and emotional function (some of the same benefits as the normal Mediterranean diet) compared to those on the low-fat diet, according to a University of South Australia blog post about the study.
That has big implications, since cognitive- and age-related issues like dementia and Alzheimer’s are becoming more prevalent. In Australia, dementia is the leading cause of death among women and the second most common cause of death overall. Alzheimer’s is among the top causes of death in the U.S.
“When you add the fact that pork production emits only a fraction of the greenhouse gases compared to beef,” Wade says, “the Med-Pork diet is really ticking all boxes—taste, health and environment.”
When many diets involve significant changes to your grocery shopping, cooking, and eating habits, the Med-Pork route looks pretty appealing. Lots of healthy foods are included, it delivers major cardiovascular and cognitive benefits, and you don’t have to completely give up meat either. Carnivores, take note: Follow this diet, and your brain and body will thank you later.
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