Mediterranean diet could save your brain study finds

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The real brain food could be fresh veggies and olive oil, study finds

A Mediterranean diet that’s loaded with fresh vegetables, fruit and the occasional drink could help preserve your brain into old age, researchers reported Wednesday.

It’s the latest in a series of studies showing that a healthy diet can preserve health, including brain health.

This one’s a little different because it doesn’t seem to show that adding fish to the diet makes any difference. It’s not clear why, but it adds another piece of evidence in favor of dumping junk food and turning instead to fresh salads dressed with olive oil, plenty of fresh fruit, hummus, beans and pasta.

Everyone’s brain shrinks as they get older. This study, published in the journal Neurology, found that people in their mid-70s who ate a Mediterranean-style diet lost less brain mass than people who ate a diet more typical of their native Scotland.

“We found that lower adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with greater three-year reduction in total brain volume,” Michelle Luciano of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and colleagues wrote.

Related: Vegan diet may save your life and the planet, too

The team used a group of Edinburgh residents who were born in 1936 and have been followed ever since. For this round, the volunteers filled out a food diary and then many of them agreed to have a series of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of their brains.

The study took them from age 70 to around 76 and the MRIs allowed the researchers to see just when and how their brains changed as they moved from late middle age into early old age. About 400 of the volunteers made it through two MRIs over three years.

Those who ate more fruits, vegetables, olive oil and the like, and less fried food, red meat and cheese had less brain shrinkage, the team found. On average, their brains shrank at about half the rate that would normally be expected over three years for people this age, they said.

Related: Tasty Diet Cuts Heart Disease

“In our study, eating habits were measured before brain volume was, which suggests that the diet may be able to provide long-term protection to the brain,” Luciano said in a statement. “Still, larger studies are needed to confirm these results.”

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