A study published Wednesday in the journal Neurology confirms that eating the easy to follow (not to mention delicious) Mediterranean diet can help prevent brain shrinkage as you age.
Researchers have followed a sample group of people from Scotland born around 1936 who have all had their health tracked by scientists from an early age.
Within this group, they found that those eating Mediterranean style diets had far less brain shrinkage than those who did not.
For the study, the seniors in the birth cohort answered questions about their eating habits at age 73 and 76, they had their brains scanned to measure for shrinkage and other aging effects.
It was found that those who ate a more Mediterranean style diet (high in legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil and fish with little to no consumption of red meat) had significantly larger brains than those whose diets were not as close.
This new research is backed up by a 2015 study, published in the same journal, in which 674 elderly people were studied.
Over the course of one year, participants were asked about the types of foods they consumed and then had their brains scanned.
It was found that those who ate a more Mediterranean style diet had both heavier brains and more gray and white matter.
Michelle Luciano, a lecturer of psychology at the University of Edinburgh, who was also the lead author on the study, explains how the studies differ:
“The previous study only measured brain volume at a single time point, whereas we had longitudinal measurements: two measurements three years apart.
The previous study was therefore not looking at brain volume change over time but differences in brain volumes at a single time point,” she said. “We also looked at two components of the diet, meat consumption and fish consumption, and neither of these had an individual effect on brain volume loss. It might be that the diet as a whole is beneficial, and it is the combination of the foods and nutrients that protects against, for example, vascular disease and inflammation, which can cause brain atrophy.”
At present, doctors don’t yet know why the Mediterranean diet has such a positive effect on aging, but further studies will hopefully help them nail down an answer.
As for now, they know changing your diet at as early of an age as possible can help keep your body younger longer.