Journal scan

Ageing of brain could be delayed by adhering to Mediterranean diet

A Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables and fish may slow the ageing process by five years, a new study suggests.

Researchers led by Columbia University assistant professor of neuropsychology Yian Gu studied 674 people with an average age of 80, none of whom had dementia.

All the study participants completed questionnaires about their diet over the preceding year. They were then divided into two groups: those who ate at least five Mediterranean food components, and those who did not. Participants also had an MRI scan of the brain around seven months later.

A healthy Mediterranean diet could benefit brain structure, say researchers at Columbia University

Picture credit: iStock

The researchers found those whose meals typically consisted of fish, vegetables, pulses, fruit, cereal and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as olive oil, had a larger brain volume 13.11mL than those who did not. Their grey matter volume was 5mL larger, and their white matter volume was 6.41mL larger.

Among older adults, Mediterranean diet adherence was associated

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Researchers led by Columbia University assistant professor of neuropsychology Yian Gu studied 674 people with an average age of 80, none of whom had dementia.

All the study participants completed questionnaires about their diet over the preceding year. They were then divided into two groups: those who ate at least five Mediterranean food components, and those who did not. Participants also had an MRI scan of the brain around seven months later.

A healthy Mediterranean diet could benefit brain structure, say researchers at Columbia University

Picture credit: iStock

The researchers found those whose meals typically consisted of fish, vegetables, pulses, fruit, cereal and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as olive oil, had a larger brain volume – 13.11mL – than those who did not. Their ‘grey matter’ volume was 5mL larger, and their ‘white matter’ volume was 6.41mL larger.

‘Among older adults, Mediterranean diet adherence was associated with less brain atrophy, with an effect similar to five years of ageing,’ the study authors said. ‘Higher fish and lower meat intake might be two key food elements that contribute to the benefits of Mediterranean diet on brain structure.’

The findings do not prove conclusively that changes in diet prevent brain shrinkage, but they show an association, they added.

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