A new study found that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish may help people lose less brain cells as they age.
In the study – published October 21 in the journal Neurology – the researchers looked at the diets of 674 adults, who were 80 years of age on average, over the course of a year. They analysed whether these diets included ingredients that are usually found in Mediterranean diets.
These components are as follows: a lot of vegetables, fish, cereals, nuts, fruits, monosaturated fats such as olive oil – instead of saturated fats, low amounts of dairy products and red meat, moderate amounts of alcohol.
The brains of the participants were then scanned. The brain volume of the people who used to consume at least five of those components turned out to be 13.11 millimetres larger, compared with those who included less than five of the aforementioned components in their diets.
According to the researchers, the difference in brain volume can be associated with the amount of brain shrinkage that occurs in a five-year period.
“These results are exciting, as they raise the possibility that people may potentially prevent brain shrinking and the effects of ageing on the brain simply by following a healthy diet,” Yang Gu, an assistant professor of neuropsychology, neurology, and epidemiology at Culombia University Medical Center in New York, said.
When analysing the link between Mediterranean diet and brain shrinkage, the researchers found that eating more fish and less red meat – which are two of the rules that the diet follows – may have a protective effect.
Gu says that the loss of brain cells that is equivalent to about 3 to 4 years of ageing may be hindered by consuming 3 to 5 ounces (about 85 to 141.7 grams) of fish each week and no more than 3.5 ounces (99.2 grams) of red meat per day.
It is possible that the vitamins B and D, as well as the omega-3 fats in fish may slow brain shrinkage, the researchers said.
The new study only shows that there may be a link between the Mediterranean diet and brain shrinkage, and not that the diet prevents brain shrinkage altogether.
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