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Here’s why the Mediterranean diet could preserve your brain’s health

The Mediterranean diet has been tied to better heart health but what about your brain?.
The Mediterranean diet has been tied to better heart health but what about your brain?. (AP Photo/Katie Workman)

Scientists have tied the Mediterranean diet to better heart health but now new research suggests it could have lasting effects on your brain.

The diet packed with fish, fruits, vegetables, olive oil and beans, could help to keep your brain healthy as you get older, researchers out of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland say.

“As we age, the brain shrinks and we lose brain cells which can affect learning and memory. This study adds to the body of evidence that suggests the Mediterranean diet has a positive impact on brain health,” Dr. Michelle Luciano, the study’s lead author, said.

READ MORE: 5 ways to keep your brain young and healthy

Luciano and her team looked at the eating habits of nearly 1,000 Scottish people who were about 70 years old and did not have dementia. Half – about 562 – had an MRI scan at age 73 to measure their brain volume, grey matter volume and the thickness of their cortex, the outer layer of the brain.

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Within that group, 401 people came back for a second MRI by age 76. Their measurements were compared with what they were eating, specifically how many Mediterranean diet-friendly foods they’d regularly consume.

Turns out, people who didn’t follow the Mediterranean diet were more likely to lose brain volume over the three-year period. This existed even after the scientists adjusted for factors like age, education and having diabetes or high blood pressure.

The scientists found that fish and meat consumption didn’t tamper with brain changes, though.

READ MORE: What are the early warning signs and symptoms of dementia?

“It’s possible that other components of the Mediterranean diet are responsible for this relationship, or that it’s due to all of the components in combination,” Luciano said.

This isn’t the first time health officials have pointed to healthy eating not just for physical health, but for mental health, too.

Last year, Alzheimer Society of Canada experts told Global News that healthy eating was just as important for brain health as staying socially active, learning a new language or reading a book.

READ MORE: Why docs say these mood changes are a warning sign for Alzheimer’s

The brain directs our heart and all of our organs to do the jobs they’re meant to do and what we’re learning is there are specific foods that are particularly good for brain health,” Mary Schulz, director of education, said.

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So what should you be eating? Look for colour when putting together your meals because those are the ingredients that’ll be packed with antioxidants and other nutrients to nourish your brain.

READ MORE: 6 misconceptions about nutrition and healthy eating

Blue and purple fruits and vegetables — blackberries, blueberries, purple cabbage and plums — are a good start. While green — from broccoli, avocados, spinach, and pears — also help.

Reds — from beets, raspberries, red grapes, tomatoes and red peppers — also make good choices, Schulz said.

Fish is packed with omega-3s, so reach for tuna, salmon and herring to feed your brain.

The latest study’s full findings were published in the journal Neurology.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca