Does the Brain Shrink Less with Age with the Mediterranean Diet?


Luciano and colleagues have published an open access article in the Journal Neurology titled ‘Mediterranean-type diet and brain structural change from 73 to 76 years in a Scottish cohort‘.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

As the name suggests, the originates in the Mediterranean region. NHS Choices have  a good summary of the diet here.

What was the research question?

The researchers were looking to see if there was a link between the Mediterranean diet and longitudinal measures of (a) Total brain volume (b) Gray matter volume (c) Cortical thickness.

What did the researchers measure?

The researchers measured (a) Adherence to the Mediterranean diet using a protocol for extracting data from a standardised food questionnaire (b) MRI volume measurements involving subtraction of various non-relevant structures (e.g cervical spine) (c) Sophisticated MR image processing to estimate cortical thickness. This was measured in a cohort of Scottish subjects. 401 were included for the brain volumes and 346 for cortical thickness. The participants were aged between 73 and 76 and had commenced the study at age 70.

What were the results?

The researchers found that adherence to the Mediterrean diet was

(a) Linked to reduced total brain atrophy

(b) Not linked to cortical thickness

(c) Not linked to gray matter volume

The researchers also found no correlation between fish or meat consumption and total brain volume, gray matter volume or cortical thickness

What are the Implications?

I found it slightly disappointing that no relationship was found with grey matter volume although this doesn’t imply that no relationship exists. For example, a previous study in a younger population did find a relationship. However the study adds to the evidence for a beneficial effect of the Mediterranean diet on the brain – specifically in this case in terms of reduced atrophy.

Full Citation Details

‘Mediterranean-type diet and brain structural change from 73 to 76 years in a Scottish cohort’.

Michelle Luciano, PhD, Janie Corley, PhD, Simon R. Cox, PhD, Maria C. Valdés Hernández, PhD, Leone C.A. Craig, PhD, David Alexander Dickie, PhD, Sherif Karama, MD, PhD, Geraldine M. McNeill, PhD, Mark E. Bastin, PhD, Joanna M. Wardlaw, MD, FRCP, FRCR and Ian J. Deary, PhD’

‘Published online before print January 4, 2017, doi:
Neurology 10.1212/WNL.0000000000003559’

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Disclaimer: The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

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