Mediterranean Diet may Have Lasting Effects on Brain Health

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Highlights:
  • Mediterranean diet retains more brain volume in older people
  • Fruits, vegetables, olive oil, beans, cereal grains, fish, lean meat, dairy and wine encompass the Mediterranean diet.
  • The findings are contrary to earlier studies that eating more fish and less meat was not related to changes in the brain.
The Mediterranean diet includes large amounts of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, beans and cereal grains such as wheat and rice, moderate amounts of fish, dairy and wine, and limited red meat and poultry.
Mediterranean Diet may Have Lasting Effects on Brain Health
Mediterranean Diet may Have Lasting Effects on Brain Health

It is already known that the Mediterranean diet is a great way to lose weight and improve overall health of an individual. It is a lifestyle component in Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Greece, Spain, Lebanon, Syria and Morocco.

The foods that are a part of the diet provide plenty of nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber that work together to protect against chronic disease. Mediterranean diet discourages the use of saturated fats and hydrogenated oils which contributes to heart disease, hypertension and encourages the use of olive oil as the primary source of fat.

Mediterranean Diet for Brain Health

A study published in the online issue of Neurology points out that older people who followed a Mediterranean diet retained more brain volume over a three-year period than those who did not follow the diet as closely.

Study author Michelle Luciano, PhD, of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland said, "As we age, the brain shrinks and we lose brain cells which can affect learning and memory. This study adds to the body of evidence that suggests the Mediterranean diet has a positive impact on brain health."

In 2015, another study published in the journal Neurology which examined data from 674 people with an average age of 80 also suggests that those who followed Mediterranean diet had heavier brains with more gray and white matter and the diet may help make your brain about five years younger.

For the study, researchers gathered information on the eating habits of 967 Scottish people around age 70 who did not have dementia. After three years, 562 had an MRI brain scan to measure overall brain volume, gray matter volume and thickness of the cortex, which is the outer layer of the brain.

In order to compare how closely participants followed the Mediterranean diet, a subset of 401 subjects underwent a second MRI after another three years.

People who didn't follow as closely to the Mediterranean diet were more likely to have a higher loss of total brain volume over the three years than people who followed the diet more closely. The difference in diet explained 0.5 percent of the variation in total brain volume, an effect that was half the size of that due to normal aging.

There was no relationship between gray matter volume or cortical thickness and the Mediterranean diet. The results were the same when researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect brain volume, such as age, education and having diabetes or high blood pressure.

Fish and meat consumption were not related to brain changes, which is contrary to earlier studies.

"It's possible that other components of the Mediterranean diet are responsible for this relationship, or that it's due to all of the components in combination," Luciano said.

Luciano noted that earlier studies looked at brain measurements at one point in time, whereas the current study followed people over time.

Dr Sujoy Mukherjee, Consultant Psychiatrist, West London Mental Health NHS Trust, said, "It is a well-designed study in a relatively large number of healthy elderly to show that the Mediterranean diet may protect from subsequent brain atrophy. This adds to the growing body of evidence highlighting the importance of proper diet on our brain health."

"In our study, eating habits were measured before brain volume, which suggests that the diet may be able to provide long-term protection to the brain," said Luciano.

Though evidence shows that Mediterranean diet can help keep your brain healthy as you age, it is not yet proved that it prevents dementia.

Reference:
  1. Mediterranean diet and brain structure in a multiethnic elderly cohort - (https:www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26491085)
  2. Potential benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet on cognitive health - (https:www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23228285)


Source: Medindia

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