Brain Health and Your Diet
My interest in the interaction of our diet and health continues to grow. Almost daily we read about new studies that illustrate the positive and negative interactions of our diet and multiple chronic diseases. One of my personal diet favorites, the Mediterranean Diet, is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds, and raw nuts. They also use extra virgin olive oil with moderate amounts of fish and eggs. Red meat and poultry are eaten rarely in this diet. One of the most publicized studies on the Mediterranean diet, the PREDIMED study, has generated multiple research papers showing an adherence to the Mediterranean diet leads to a reduction in heart attacks, strokes, metabolic syndrome, and development of diabetes.
More recently, there has been further evidence for an overall decrease in neurodegenerative diseases with this diet. A study published this year in Neurology, by Luciano et al, looked at brain structural changes over 3 years in a cohort of patients in Scotland. Using MRI, they measured brain volume and compared this to how closely the participants followed the Mediterranean diet. The subjects who followed the diet the closest lost less brain volume than those who did not follow the diet. The researchers concluded that diet may provide long-term protection to our brains.
One of the challenges of interpreting dietary studies is subject recall and accounting for other lifestyle changes. However, this study again suggests the importance of our diet in multiple areas of our lives, including our aging brains.
So in addition to regular exercise, a varied plant-based diet, like the Mediterranean diet, gives us the best chance to keep our brains working.
Michelle Luciano, Janie Corley, Simon R. Cox, Maria C. Valdés Hernández, Leone C.A. Craig, David Alexander Dickie, Sherif Karama, Geraldine M. McNeill, Mark E. Bastin, Joanna M. Wardlaw, Ian J. Deary. Mediterranean-type diet and brain structural change from 73 to 76 years in a Scottish cohort. Neurology, 2017
Ferre GM, et al. Frequency of nut consumption and the mortality risk in the PREDIMED nutrition intervention trial. BMC Medicine, 2013.