Journal scan

Mediterranean diet could slow shrinking of the brain

Older people who follow a Mediterranean diet retain more brain volume than those who do not follow the diet as closely, new study results suggest. 

Older people who follow a Mediterranean diet retain more brain volume than those who do not follow the diet as closely, new study results suggest.

Researchers from Scotland and Canada gathered data on the eating habits of 967 people in Scotland, aged about 70 years, who did not have dementia. Of these, 562 had an MRI scan of the brain at age 73 to measure overall brain volume, grey matter volume and thickness of the outer layer of the brain.

Three years later, 401 people from this group had a second MRI scan, around the age of 76. The scans were then compared with information on how closely the study participants followed a Mediterranean diet, which includes large amounts of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, beans and cereal grains, such

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Older people who follow a Mediterranean diet retain more brain volume than those who do not follow the diet as closely, new study results suggest. 


Researchers found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet retained a
higher brain volume. Picture: iStock

Researchers from Scotland and Canada gathered data on the eating habits of 967 people in Scotland, aged about 70 years, who did not have dementia. Of these, 562 had an MRI scan of the brain at age 73 to measure overall brain volume, grey matter volume and thickness of the outer layer of the brain. 

Three years later, 401 people from this group had a second MRI scan, around the age of 76. The scans were then compared with information on how closely the study participants followed a Mediterranean diet, which includes large amounts of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, beans and cereal grains, such as wheat and rice. 

Higher brain volume 

The researchers found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet retained higher brain volume over the three-year period than those who did not follow the diet as closely. 

‘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,’ said Alzheimer’s Society research manager Claire Walton. 


Luciano P et al (2016) Mediterranean-type diet and brain structural change from 73 to 76 years in a Scottish cohort. Neurology. doi: http:/ / dx. doi. org/ 10. 1212/ WNL. 0000000000003559 

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