A new study has found that the Mediterranean diet improves brain health and avoids some of the damages that come with aging.

The research shows that people that eat lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, less red meat and unhealthy fats and consistently but moderately consume fish, and red wine are less vulnerable to brain shrinkage. A shrinking brain is, generally speaking, a brain whose performance and reaction time are declining, mostly because of aging.

Mediterranean diet
The study assessed a group of Scottish people to see how the Mediterranean diet affected their brain performance and compared the results to adults with a different diet. Image credit: The Huffington Post.

The study results were published Wednesday in the journal Neurology. The article sheds light on how the Mediterranean diet helps to improve brain health, suggesting that plant-based foods are responsible for the diet’s positive effects on the human body.

The human brain naturally shrinks with age but the Mediterranean diet can slow down the process

The study followed a group of 562 Scots in their 70s and found that those who consumed a Mediterranean diet had half the brain shrinkage than those who were not close to consuming a Mediterranean diet.

Researchers followed participants who were born in 1936 for three years.

First, they selected their study groups from the “Lothian Birth Cohort,” whose participants had filled out a dietary frequency form that gave scientists a broad look at what foods the participants ate, also including which foods they avoided and how often they consumed them.

The study divided participants into two groups: one that included those who at least approximated a Mediterranean-style diet and another group with those Scottish that came nowhere close to the studied diet.

When participants from both groups were about 73 three years old, their brains were scanned. The screening was repeated when they were 76 years old and found that those Scottish that consumed a Mediterranean diet had a less shrunken brain compared to the other group.

Even when many participants of the Med-diet group were far perfect in their adherence, their average brain loss was significantly lesser than the one of those older adults that ate differently.

“As we age, the brain shrinks and we lose brain cells, which can affect learning and memory,” said Michelle Luciano of the University of Edinburgh, who led the study. “This study adds to the body of evidence that suggests the Mediterranean diet has a positive impact on brain health.”

How the Mediterranean diet works

Previous investigations have studied the Mediterranean diet in the past to understand its effects and how it works to improve brain performance. Some evidence argues that reduced brain shrinkage is due to low intake of meat, but the recent study suggests that the effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet on humans’ health lies in plant-based foods.

The research also found that intelligent and educated people are more likely to have better dieting habits, which leads them to eat Mediterranean foods. Other studies have mentioned the same thing, suggesting that the decision to eat healthier may actually stem from higher intelligence and educational attainment.

Almost all Mediterranean diet studies have established that eating fish, less red meat, more legumes and vegetables and a moderate red wine intake does not only benefits the human brain but reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and helps people to live longer.

Source: Neurology