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

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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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