The study found that people who ate a Mediterranean diet low in meat and dairy had larger brain volumes and less cognitive decline. On average, their brains appeared five years younger compared to other people of the same age.
Mediterranean diets are based on diets that are common in Greece, Spain, and other countries close to the Mediterranean Sea. These diets emphasize fish, healthy oils, vegetables, and nuts. They are typically very low in sodium, dairy, and red meat.
Mediterranean diets have long been known to reduce the risk of cancer and heart diseases, as well as certain degenerative brain diseases like Parkinsonâs and Alzheimerâs. However, with the findings of this new study, these diets may actually have broader health implications than previously thought, such as helping to slow the aging process.
Researchers studied 684 elderly people with normal mental functioning and an average age of 80 years old. They divided the participants into two groups based on their eating habits: one group was for people who followed a Mediterranean diet, while the other group was for those who did not. The researchers then examined brain scans of the participants.
The results showed that the group that followed a Mediterranean diet had larger brain volumes by 13.11 millimeters. This difference is equal to about five yearsâ worth of aging in the brain.
As well, the participants who ate a Mediterranean diet had more gray matter than people who did not. Gray matter is important for speaking, decision-making, and memories.
âAmong cognitively healthy older adults, we were able to detect an association between higher adherence to a Mediterranean type diet and better brain measures,â said Yian Gu, lead author of the study and an assistant professor at Columbia University.
According to Gu, the results indicate that small changes in lifestyle can have a big impact on our aging and the brain.
âThese 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,â said Gu.
While the study shows that there is a link between Mediterranean diets and healthy brains, researchers are still unsure why these diets have such positive benefits, suggesting that several mechanisms may be at play.
As well, researchers caution that it may be possible that people with healthier brains are simply more likely to seek out these types of diets. Further research will have to be done to prove that these diets do slow the aging process.
While Gu stops short of giving a recommendation, the other noted health benefits of Mediterranean diets show that they are probably a good lifestyle choice to follow, particularly to keep your brain healthy.
Sources for Todayâs Article:
âMediterranean diet may âslow the aging process by five yearsâ,â The Guardian web site, October 21, 2015; http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/oct/21/mediterranean-diet-may-slow-the-aging-process-by-five-years.
Mohney, G., âBrain Shrinkage May Be Curtailed by Mediterranean Diet, New Study Shows,â ABC News web site, October 21, 2015; http://abcnews.go.com/Health/brain-shrinkage-curtailed-mediterranean-diet-study-shows/story?id=34634642.
Netburn, D., âA Mediterranean diet could prevent your brain from shrinking in old age,â The Los Angeles Times web site, October 21, 2015; http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-mediterranean-diet-brain-shrinkage-20151020-story.html.
Reuters, âStudy: The Mediterranean Diet May Help Preserve a More Youthful Brain,â Newsweek web site, October 21, 2015; http://www.newsweek.com/study-mediterranean-diet-may-help-preserve-more-youthful-brain-385993.
Salamon, M., âThis Diet May Keep Your Mind Healthier in Old Age,â WebMD web site, October 21, 2015; http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/20151021/mediterranean-diet-may-keep-your-mind-healthier-in-old-age?page=1.