The Mediterranean diet has been in the news for years, but some of us aren’t sure if it offers any real benefits. Now we have a piece of the puzzle. In a recent study supported by the National Institutes of Health, participants experienced less brain atrophy after adhering to that type of diet, resulting in loss of fewer brain cells and maintaining cognition.
The Mediterranean-type diet (called MeDi in researcher parlance), consists of low intake of dairy, poultry, meat and alcohol, and higher intake of fruit, fish, cereal, vegetables and fats that are monounsaturated (such as olive oil).
A few specifics: Eating less meat resulted in larger total brain volume. Eating more fish was associated with greater cortical thickness. Based on these, researchers concluded that even these two diet adjustments had a positive benefit as part of the Mediterranean diet. The difference in two groups (those who adhered to a Mediterranean diet versus those who didn’t) was the same as aging five years. The average brain volume was 13 percent larger, which is significant.
This isn’t the first time the benefits to the brain have been studied. In 2010, a similar study concluded that the Mediterranean diet can help prevent damage to the parts of the brain that deal with thinking and memory. Those who adhered to the diet were 36 percent less likely to have damage. Those who generally stuck to the diet were 21 percent less likely.
Ask your medical provider whether you should add these types of foods to your diet and stay away from the more harmful ones. For more information, search online for “Mediterranean diet,” and look for sites by the Mayo Clinic, the American Heart Association and WebMD as places to start.