Brain shrinks less in older people who eat Mediterranean diet

Italian Cultural Centre

A 2015 study from the journal Neurology also suggests that a Mediterranean diet (which includes wine!) may help make your brain about five years younger.

The 967 participants were asked to complete food questionnaires when they were 70 years old - 3 years prior to collecting data on their brain volume.

Everyone's brain shrinks as they get older.

Adopting the "Mediterranean diet" could slow down brain shrinking in people as they age, scientists have found out.

Lead researcher Dr Michelle Luciano said: "As we age, the brain shrinks and we lose brain cells, which can affect learning and memory". The National Health Service already points out that the Mediterranean diet is similar to the advice health officials give for healthy eating.

The study divided participants into two groups: one that included those who at least approximated a Mediterranean-style diet and another group with those Scottish that came nowhere close to the studied diet.

Turns out, people who didn't follow the Mediterranean diet were more likely to lose brain volume over the three-year period. Additionally, scientific efforts were also conducted toward understanding the best means of preserving our brain volume, in relation with different edible types such as red meat or olive oil.

They carried out brain scans on 401 people in their 70s who did not have dementia and who provided information about what they ate. "So the reduced loss in the people who adhered to the Mediterranean diet in general would be expected to protect them from developing dementia".

Of these, 562 had a brain scan three years later to measure overall brain volume, grey matter volume and thickness of the cortex, which is the outer layer of the brain.

The results were the same when researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect brain volume, such as age, education and having diabetes or hypertension.

A study of pensioners with this diet found their brain shrinkage, associated with memory loss and Alzheimer's, was half of others their age.

"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 in the statement.

More research is needed on which parts of the brain are protected, but brain shrinkage has been linked with dementia, backing up previous research that this diet, which is also low in meat and dairy products, could protect against Alzheimer's.

Finally, the researchers wrote, the study's design helps establish that the brain-shrinkage rates seen are likely to be the result of dietary patterns, and not just an association.