New evidence points to the Mediterranean diet as an excellent buffer against cognitive decline and dementia.

As one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases today, there are currently over 6 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S., and that number is also expected to go up to as much as 13 million come 2050.

New research suggests that strictly adhering to the so-called Mediterranean diet can provide greater cognition while also significantly reducing the risk of memory decline.

Published in JAMA Network Open, the study was done on over 6,000 Hispanic and Latino individuals who regularly followed the diet. The participants completed diet assessments and underwent two cognition tests.

Of the group, 35.8% loosely followed the diet, 45.4% moderately adhered to it, while the remaining 18.8% strictly followed the eating plan.

The researchers found that strict adherence to the diet seemingly helped reduce the risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in Hispanic and Latino individuals.

“These findings support what other studies have found and strengthen the link between cognitive health and the Mediterranean Diet. It’s great that the population was specifically Latino/Hispanic and that the foods were culturally appropriate because it suggests that anyone, anywhere, can benefit from a Mediterranean-style diet,” said Danielle McAvoy, MSPH, RD, and a registered dietician with Strong Home Gym.

The team of researchers also pointed out that while the Mediterranean diet has been consistently linked to lower dementia risk, their findings remind us that regardless of diet type, there are plenty of benefits that come from eating large amounts of food, which help maintain brain performance and health.

According to Dr. Dana Ellis Hunnes, a senior clinical dietitian at UCLA medical center, assistant professor at UCLA Fielding school of public health and author of “Recipe for Survival,” we can thank the diet’s anti-inflammatory effects for its cognitive benefits.

“There are a lot of nutrition and epidemiological studies that indicate that healthy diets — such as the Mediterranean diet — lower inflammation. One of the best things we can do to slow down aging and cognitive decline is to eat a very healthy, anti-inflammatory, and primarily plant-based diet such as a Mediterranean diet,” Hunnes said.