Scientists know that people who exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, avoid smoking and keep mentally stimulated generally have healthier brains than people who aren’t as careful about diet and exercise.
A study published this January in the journal Neurology seems to confirm that eating an easy-to-follow Mediterranean diet can have lasting benefits for brain health. Over a three-year period, scientists analyzed the diets of about 400 adults, 73 to 76 years old, in Scotland. MRIs allowed the researchers to see just when and how their brains changed as they moved from late middle age into early old age.
Those who ate more fruits, vegetables, olive oil and the like, and less fried food, red meat and cheese had less brain shrinkage—on average about half the rate that would normally be expected over three years for people this age.
Loss of brain volume is inevitable as we age but the bigger the brain is in late life the more resistant it makes us to the effects of brain diseases. People who have bigger brains in general can tolerate more brain pathology, more brain disease, than those who have smaller brains.
Another study conducted in 2015 suggests that a Mediterranean diet (which includes wine) may help make your brain about five years younger. Researchers evaluated the diets of 674 people with an average age of 80 and then scanned their brains. The group that ate a Mediterranean diet had heavier brains with more gray and white matter.
More research is needed to determine an association between a Mediterranean diet and a specific effect on risk for degenerative brain diseases, such as dementia. But at a minimum, following this diet can help you manage your weight better and can lower your risk for cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
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