IT is never too late to start eating a Mediterranean diet, as a study shows it could stop the brains of people in their seventies from shrinking.
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, olive oil, and even a glass of wine a day, may protect the grey matter which declines as we age.
A study of pensioners with this diet found their brain shrinkage, associated with memory loss and Alzheimer’s, was half of others their age.
Food for thought: Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, olive oil, and even a glass of wine a day, may protect the grey matter which declines as we age
The benefits are believed to come from the antioxidants found in vegetables, olive oil and even the glass of red every day which forms part of the Mediterranean diet. These are thought to reduce damage in the brain from oxidation, which leads to neural degeneration.
Lead author Dr Michelle Luciano, from the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘As we age, the brain shrinks and we lose brain cells which can affect learning and memory,
‘This study adds to the body of evidence that suggests the Mediterranean diet has a positive impact on brain health.’
Previous studies have found a Mediterranean diet, which is also low in meat and dairy, may protect against dementia. The diet has also been found to cut the risk of Parkinson’s disease and dying from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
A Mediterranean diet was judged as one high in fruit and vegetables, beans and grains such as wheat and rice, including the mono-unsaturated fats found in olive oil, and even allowing for moderate consumption of up to the equivalent of a large glass of wine a day for women or two for men.
People of this age would be expected to lose around 18ml of their brain volume in the three years between 73 and 76. Up to two per cent of the brain is lost every year as we grow older.
You are what you eat: A study of pensioners with this diet found their brain shrinkage, associated with memory loss and Alzheimer’s, was half of others their age
Tasty: A Mediterranean diet was judged as one high in fruit and vegetables – and even allowing for moderate consumption of a large glass of wine a day for women or two for men
But those found to have most closely stuck to a Mediterranean diet when questioned about it by researchers experienced less than half of that shrinkage, MRI brain scans showed.
This is important because a loss of brain volume as people get older affects their memory, increases the speed at which they process information and even the speed at which they speak and their attention span.
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 could protect against Alzheimer’s.
Dr David Reynolds, chief scientific research officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘The brain, just like other parts of the body, can be affected by the way we live our lives.’
He called for further research to find a link with dementia, but added: ‘This study adds to previous research highlighting the importance of this kind of well-balanced diet in maintaining a healthy brain as we age.’
Good for you: The diet has also been found to cut the risk of Parkinson’s disease and dying from cardiovascular disease and cancer
Dr Clare Walton, Research Manager at charity the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘There is an increasing amount of evidence to indicate that eating a healthy diet that’s rich in oily fish, fresh veg and nuts is good for your brain and can help to maintain your memory as you get older.
‘Our brains shrink by 1-2% per year in old age and this study suggests that a Mediterranean-style diet could also potentially help to slow down this shrinking process.’
She also stressed that there is not yet enough evidence to say the diet prevents dementia.
Unlike previous studies, researchers found fish and meat consumption were not linked to brain changes.
Dr Luciano said: ‘In our study, eating habits were measured before brain volume was, which suggests that the diet may be able to provide long-term protection to the brain. Still, larger studies are needed to confirm these results.’
Source: Daily Mail
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Published at Thu, 05 Jan 2017 08:42:12 +0000