Mediterranean diet prevents brain shrinking and cognitive decline, new study suggests

Scientists gathered dietary information for 401 70 year olds

LAST UPDATED: 5 Jan, 2017 @ 10:18
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brainA MEDITERRANEAN diet could prevent brain shrinking in old age and stave off cognitive decline, a new study has suggested.

Scientists have known the diet – which is typical in Spain – can help prevent dementia, but they did not know how it protected the brain.

But a new study has shown how it keeps brain cells active for longer, helping to slow down the inevitable shrinkage.

“As we age, the brain shrinks and we lose brain cells which can affect learning and memory,” said the author of the study Dr Michelle Luciano, from the University of Edinburgh.

“This study adds to the body of evidence that suggests the Mediterranean diet has a positive impact on brain health… and may be able to provide long-term protection to the brain.”

Scientists gathered dietary information for 401 70 year olds and then scanned their brains at the age of 73 and 76, measuring brain volume and the thickness of the cerebral cortex.

They found that those who closely followed a Mediterranean diet – oily fish, vegetables, nuts and fruit – retained more volume over the period.

Dr Clare Walton, Research Manager at 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 cent per year in old age and this study suggests that a Mediterranean-style diet could also potentially help to slow down this shrinking process.”

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  1. Another “study” out today concerning cognitive decline, suggests that traffic pollution is a major factor in dementia. So as you eat your nuts, fruit and veg, don’t sit on the pavement eating, sucking in fumes at the same time. One may cancel out the other.

  2. stefanjo – what’s gone wrong – that is a funny post. Actually does anyone know a single Spaniard that actually eats this Med diet. I eat huge salads every day, lots of sardine and kipper fillets and lots of free cob and walnuts, does this qualify?

    • Asturians aren’t big on salads. People here aren’t going to pay money for what they perceive as livestock food. Here they eat The high cholesterol, dementia diet: fava, potatos, corn meal bread, sausage and meat – rarely some kale. In restaurants, its always the same old iceberg lettuce with low grade tuna dumped on top, maybe some limp carrot shreds, decorated with a canned olive tossed. Supermarket produce is limp stuff from the plastic southern coastal farms. Local produce often buggy with unknown quantities of pesticides on it. As for growing your own, deer, birds, slugs, countless insects eat most of it. I recall asking for a salad in Munchen in the 70s. I got a half dozen pickled vegetables.

  3. The latest thinking rates sugar as the number-one villain. This includes highly processed carbohydrates which swiftly convert to glucose (sugar) in the body. Things like white rice, bread, a slice of which is the equivalent of a couple spoons of sugar in glucose terms. We are now advised to eat and drink full-fat everything. Meat, oils, dairy, milk butter, proteins etc. But avoid carbohydrates as much as possible. The nutritionists are turning our diets on their heads.
    Although the “Med diet” contains much of the good stuff, large amounts of sugar are also consumed. Those little packets that come with your cafe con leche really mount up over a day, also those sugary, cake-type breakfasts, yet Spain has great longevity. Go figure .
    Must be the weather after all….

  4. Chas,
    when I lived in the Netherlands, the cloggies used to laugh at my diet saying it was rabbit food. I used to point out their terrible spotty complexions and the fact that they needed a woman to wipe their rear ends, that stopped them laughing. The only lettuce available then was the revolting ‘cabbage lettuce’. I never saw the Dutch buy the great bunches of mint that Moroccans sold to make mint tea, delicious hot or cold. In Germany when we went on cycling holidays we only once had a decent German meal, they murder good ingredients in the kitchen, stick to Turkish food but avoid the sugar laden desserts.

    We were always appalled in Guadix when we saw the locals buying virtually the whole pig. The only Spanish family that we knew ate a Med diet were slim and healthy, the husband a fireman and his feisty wife that berated other Spanish for eating rubbish.

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