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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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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