Better Diet May Prevent Brain Shrinkage

Better Diet May Prevent Brain Shrinkage

Have you ever heard the term brain food? People who eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts and fish may have bigger brains, according to a study published in a recent online issue of “Neurology”, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“People with greater brain volume have been shown in other studies to have better cognitive abilities, so initiatives that help improve diet quality may be a good strategy to maintain thinking skills in older adults,” said study author Meike W. Vernooij, MD, PhD, of the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.¬†Participants of the study had an average age of 66 who did not suffer from dementia.

Dietary guidelines were examined food intake in the following groups:

  • vegetables, fruit
  • whole grain products
  • legumes
  • nuts
  • dairy
  • fish
  • tea
  • unsaturated fats and oils of total fats
  • red and processed meat
  • sugary beverages
  • alcohol
  • salt

Researchers ranked the quality of diet for each person with a score of zero to 14. The best diet consisted of vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains, dairy and fish, but a limited intake of sugary drinks. The average score of participants was seven.

All participants had brain scans with magnetic resonance imaging to determine brain volume, the number of brain white matter lesions and small brain bleeds. The participants had an average total brain volume of 932 milliliters. Information was also gathered on other factors that may have an impact such as as high blood pressure, smoking and physical activity.

Researchers found after adjusting for age, sex, education, smoking and physical activity that a higher diet score was linked to larger total brain volume, when taking into account head size differences. Those who consumed a better diet had an average of two milliliters more total brain volume than those who did not. To compare, having a volume that is 3.6 milliliters smaller is equivalent to one year of aging.

For comparison, researchers also assessed diet based on the Mediterranean diet, which is also rich in vegetables, fish and nuts, and found brain volume results were similar to those who adhered closely to Dutch dietary guidelines.

It was determined that the link between better overall diet quality and larger total brain volume was not driven by one specific food group, but rather several food groups. Many complex interactions that can occur across different food components and nutrients and according to the research, people who ate a combination of healthier foods had larger brain tissue volumes.

The study was supported by Erasmus Medical Center and Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Netherlands Organization for the Health Research and Development, the Dutch Research Institute for Diseases in the Elderly, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Dutch Ministry for Health, Welfare and Sports, the European Commission, and the Municipality of Rotterdam.

Story Source: American Academy of Neurology

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