Aging to elderly years is characterized by the brain shrinking and the increased risk of developing dementia and other brain diseases or disorders, and stroke. If you are reading this, you are indeed following a healthy lifestyle and respect your health. Nutritious diet and exercise are likely keying your lifestyle.
You have likely heard for years that eating the so-called Mediterranean diet is a way to enjoy excellent health – and delicious food. A new study validates that the Mediterranean diet is indeed a health-promoter, and this study, published in Neurology, shows that it can enhance and maintain brain health.
Researchers analyzed the diets of about 400 Scottish adults aged 73 to 76 for three years; the scientists MRI scans of the participants to evaluate overall brain volume and brain cortex thickness. The volunteers who ate a Mediterranean-type diet were less likely to lose brain volume as they got older, compared to those who ate non-Mediterranean diet. (Luciano, et al. Neurology 2017, vol. 88 no. 5 449-455.)
An earlier study also published in Neurology also shows beneficial brain effects from following the Mediterranean diet; this study concluded that it can make your brain a few years younger. In this study of 674 elderly adults (average age of 80), researchers performed brain scans and showed that the those who regularly ate a Mediterranean diet had heavier brains with more white and gray matter than their peers who didn’t eat a Mediterranean diet. (Gu, et al. Neurology vol. 85 no. 20 1744-1751.)
This earlier study only measured brain volume at only one point in time where researchers in the new study took two measurements, one at the beginning of the three-year study and one at its conclusion.
Unlike many other diets, the Mediterranean diet is pretty easy to follow and is abundant in foods that are familiar and enjoyable. Most of the diet is plant-based – fruits, beans, cereal grains and vegetables; poultry and fish can be eaten at least twice a week. Carbs are encouraged as from whole grains and cruciferous vegetables (which also provide healthy fiber).
And this is the diet that also is characterized by enjoying sipping a glass of wine. The only limitations are red meats, dairy and sources of saturated fats. Olive oil – we encourage the healthiest type, which is EVOO, or extra virgin olive oil – is preferred to cook with instead of butter.
Fish as part of the Mediterranean diet also provides the goodness of Omega-3 essential fatty acids, but, there are many people who just can’t stand eating fish. So, a similar diet, called the MIND diet, allows you to eat less fish and fruit.