New research which studied people in their 70s has found that a Mediterranean diet helps to preserve brain size. As people get older, brains shrink in size and this increases reaction times.
Mediterranean diets include lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, olive oil, legumes, and a little chicken and red meat, with a moderate helping of red wine and fish.
The study focused on 562 Scots in their 70s. Those that broadly followed a Mediterranean diet experienced half the brain shrinkage on those that hadn’t. The people selected were all born in 1936. Their lifestyles and health statuses had been tracked from an early age.
When they reached 70, members of the “Lothian Birth Cohort” completed dietary forms where they stated what they ate, what they avoided and how often they consumed them. At ages 73 and 76, they underwent brain scans to gauge any size difference.
The researchers divided the group into two. Those who loosely followed a Mediterranean diet and those who came nowhere close. Even though the first group was not adhering to the diet completely, their brains were a lot healthier than the other group.
There have been plenty of studies which have found significant health benefits in the Mediterranean diet. From reducing the risk of stroke to heart attack, the benefits are far reaching. The issue is how the diet makes you healthier.
Authors in this study believe the benefits mostly come from the plant based foods of the Mediterranean diet, and not so much less red meat and chicken and more fish. Although there is some research that disagrees with this.
One aspect where the study did shed light was that the diet was effective at reducing brain shrinkage regardless of intellect and educational attainment.
Other studies have showed that the earlier you start eating a healthier diet the better. For now, it would appear that vegetables are the key to the success of the Mediterranean diet.