Eat a Mediterranean-Like Diet to Prevent Brain Shrinkage, Study Suggests

May 29, 2018

Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts and fish may help older adults prevent age-related brain shrinkage. 

The study, published this month in the online medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, suggests that diet can impact brain volume – and people with greater volume have been shown to have better cognitive abilities.

Brain shrinkage is an unavoidable part of aging. But significant brain shrinkage is associated with memory loss and loss of mental sharpness as well as premature death.

The study was conducted by researchers in the Netherlands and included more than 4,000 people with an average age of 66 who did not have dementia.

Researchers found after adjusting for age, sex, education, smoking and physical activity that a better diet -  defined as a diet composed of vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains, dairy and fish, but a limited intake of sugary drinks - 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 brain volume that is 3-in-a-half milliliters smaller is equivalent to one year of aging. 

Researchers said 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.

Researchers also stipulated that their research showed an association between better diet and brain volume and said that further studies are needed to confirm the results.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Marshall Health, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.