The Mediterranean Diet seen to substantially reduce brain shrinkage among older adults



Less shrink­age: This is your aging brain on the Mediter­ranean diet (Los Ange­les Times):

The aging brain is a shrink­ing brain, and a shrink­ing brain is, gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, a brain whose per­for­mance and reac­tion time are declin­ing: That is a harsh real­i­ty of grow­ing older.

But new research shows that brain shrink­age is less pro­nounced in old­er folks whose diets hew close­ly to the tra­di­tion­al diet of Mediter­ranean peo­ples — includ­ing lots of fruits, veg­eta­bles, legumes, nuts and olive oil, lit­tle red meat and poul­try, and reg­u­lar, mod­er­ate con­sump­tion of fish and red wine.

In a group of 562 Scots in their 70s, those whose con­sump­tion pat­terns more close­ly fol­lowed the Mediter­ranean diet expe­ri­enced, on aver­age, half the brain shrink­age that was nor­mal for the group as a whole over a three-year period…the find­ings sug­gest that reduced brain shrink­age is not specif­i­cal­ly linked to low intake of meat and high intake of fish. Maybe, the authors sug­gest (and many researchers believe this), the mag­ic in the Mediter­ranean diet is all those plant-based foods, act­ing col­lec­tive­ly to improve sub­jects’ cog­ni­tive health.

The study also finds that sub­jects across the spec­trum of intel­lect and edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment reaped the ben­e­fits of the Mediter­ranean diet in reduc­ing brain shrink­age (or, alter­na­tive­ly, suf­fered the effects of diets that depart­ed sharply from that diet’s empha­sis on plants, fish and polyun­sat­u­rat­ed fats). That sug­gests the researchers are not wrong­ly cred­it­ing sub­jects’ dietary choic­es for advan­tages that may actu­al­ly stem from high­er intel­li­gence and edu­ca­tion­al attainment.”

Study: Mediter­ranean-type diet and brain struc­tur­al change from 73 to 76 years in a Scot­tish cohort (Neu­rol­o­gy). From the abstract:

  • Objec­tive: To assess the asso­ci­a­tion between Mediter­ranean-type diet (MeDi) and change in brain MRI vol­u­met­ric mea­sures and mean cor­ti­cal thick­ness across a 3‑year peri­od in old­er age (73–76 years).
  • Meth­ods: We focused on 2 lon­gi­tu­di­nal brain vol­umes plus a lon­gi­tu­di­nal mea­sure­ment of cor­ti­cal thick­ness, for which the pre­vi­ous cross-sec­tion­al evi­dence of an asso­ci­a­tion with the MeDi was strongest. Adher­ence to the MeDi was cal­cu­lat­ed from data gath­ered from a food fre­quen­cy ques­tion­naire at age 70, 3 years pri­or to the base­line imag­ing data collection.
  • Results: In regres­sion mod­els adjust­ing for rel­e­vant demo­graph­ic and phys­i­cal health indi­ca­tors, we found that low­er adher­ence to the MeDi was asso­ci­at­ed with greater 3‑year reduc­tion in total brain vol­ume. This effect was half the size of the largest covari­ate effect (i.e., age)…Targeted analy­ses of meat and fish con­sump­tion did not repli­cate pre­vi­ous asso­ci­a­tions with total brain vol­ume or total gray mat­ter volume.
  • Con­clu­sions: Low­er adher­ence to the MeDi in an old­er Scot­tish cohort is pre­dic­tive of total brain atro­phy over a 3‑year inter­val. Fish and meat con­sump­tion does not dri­ve this change, sug­gest­ing that oth­er com­po­nents of the MeDi or, pos­si­bly, all of its com­po­nents in com­bi­na­tion are respon­si­ble for the association.

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About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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