A Mediterranean diet might thwart brain shrinkage. The popular and healthy way of eating could decrease the risk of both cognitive impairment and dementia, according to a new neurological study.
Individuals eating a Mediterranean diet often experience less brain shrinkage, or brain atrophy, than those who dine on others types of menus, according to a report in the journal Neurology. The diet is comprised primarily of monounsaturated fatty acidic foods, such as olive oil, nuts, fish, legumes, vegetables, and little to no meat, ABC News reports.
The neurological study involved 674 people over the age of 80 who did not exhibit any signs of dementia. The test subjects completed a questionnaire about their diet and underwent brain scans. The scans were then reviewed to determine brain volume.
— ABC News (@ABC) October 22, 2015
The average human brain is approximately 1,400 milliliters. People in their 80s typically have smaller brains because the vital organ tends to shrink with age.
The test subjects who adhered to a Mediterranean diet reportedly possessed a brain volume approximately 13.11 milliliters larger than those who did not eat the same diet. The gray matter volume was reportedly five milliliters larger and their white brain matter 6.41 milliliters larger, according to the researchers findings.
Yian Gu, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University, said the brain shrinkage Mediterranean diet results could help pave the way for humans to keep their brains far healthier as we enter old age. The professor also said that researchers believe there is a possibility that humans may be able to prevent the destructive effect aging has on the brain simply by following the diet.
“These results are exciting, as they raise the possibility that people may potentially prevent brain shrinking and the effects of aging on the brain simply by following a healthy diet,” Gu said.
— CNN Health (@cnnhealth) October 22, 2015
The Mediterranean diet brain shrinkage study also produced a mounting body of facts and evidence showing how much of an impact a healthy diet has on the brain over time, according to Dr. Brian Appleby, a geriatric psychologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. The psychologist was not involved in the neurological study.
“The old adage, you are what you eat, is very well demonstrated here,” Dr. Appleby added. “It makes sense if you have a healthy diet that it’s going to be reflective at a cellular level at your brain.”
The healthy fat in fish is comprised of the same type of fatty acids that make up brain cells. Fish has long been referred to as “brain food.” Dr. Appleby also cautioned that more research is needed to thoroughly understand exactly how a Mediterranean diet interacts with both brain cells and the body.
The brain health of the elderly in the Mediterranean region may also be attributed to social activities that enhance both mental and physical health, the University Hospitals Case Medical Center psychologist maintains.
The doctor believes that the social aspects of the culture also contribute to the decreased risk of dementia.
“The Mediterranean diet is almost a lifestyle in the way,” Dr. Appleby noted. “They eat sitting down in large groups of people.”
Consuming at least five of the food items recommended for the Mediterranean diet may help reduce brain age by about five years, according to a Daily Mail report.
Would you begin eating a Mediterranean diet to help reduce the risk of dementia during your senior years?[Image via Shutterstock.com]