It is common knowledge that a Mediterranean diet – fruits, vegetables, olive oil, fish, grains – is good for your health, but a new study added more reasons to stick to it. The study found a reduction in the loss of brain volume associated with old age in subject following a Mediterranean diet for a period of three years (more precisely, from the ages of 73 to 76).
The difference in brain tissue loss is not huge. It is only about 2.5 ml (half a teaspoon), but it is still a progress. If the results prove reliable, the trend of the Mediterranean diet might spread among older people.
Increased brain size is indeed associated with fish and low meat consumption, but there may be arguments that a healthy lifestyle in general benefits the brain and a certain diet or food cannot directly influence it without other factors being present. A randomized control study would have been welcome to obtain conclusive result, meaning that the researchers could introduce a certain diet to the subjects and compare the analyses of their brain before and after the diet.
The researchers in this latest study did not perform a randomized trial, but a longitudinal study. They questioned their subjects aged 70 on their diets and marked them as “high” and “low” according to their engagement to a more or less Mediterranean-like diet. After three years, they did a brain scan and afterwards, a second brain scan after another three years. They analyzed the changes that occurred in their brains between these last three years (73 to 76 years old). The results found a greater amount of brain tissue loss in the subjects marked as “low” in their dietary habits.
This evidence may persuade us that a healthy diet means a good brain condition, but the researchers are caution in interpreting the result. They could not find previous studies on the effects that diets based on fish and low meat had on the brain. Therefore, we cannot be sure if the diet itself or specific components of it are responsible for the decreased loss in brain volume.
There are also other factors that have not been taken into consideration in the research that could be related to dietary habits and brain volume and therefore they may give the impression that these two are actually related.
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