Eating a Mediterranean-like diet may be associated with losing fewer brain cells caused by aging, according to a study published today in the online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The study found that people following a Mediterranean-like diet had a larger brain volume (13.11 millilitres) than those who did not follow the Mediterranean diet. Their grey matter volume was 5.0 millilitres larger, and their white matter volume was 6.41 millilitres larger. The difference between the two groups was about the same as five years of ageing.
The study involved 674 people with an average age of 80, none had dementia. Participants completed questionnaires about their diet over the past year and had their brains scanned an average of seven months after completing the diet questionnaire. The participants were divided into two groups based on how closely their dietary habits followed the Mediterranean diet principles: those who ate at least five of Mediterranean food components and those who did not.
The Mediterranean-like diet included high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals, fish and monounsaturated fatty acids such as olive oil; low intake of saturated fatty acids, dairy products, meat and poultry; and mild to moderate amounts of alcohol. Eating more fish and less meat was associated with less brain shrinkage.
Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society said: “There is an increasing amount of evidence that eating a healthy diet, rich in fish, vegetables, legumes and nuts is good for your brain. This study delves further into the potential benefits that diet could have, but it does not prove that a Mediterranean style diet can stop your brain from shrinking as you age.
“Other key ways to keep your brain healthy is to take as much physical exercise as you can, stop smoking and keep your blood pressure in check.”