Tomatoes, olive oil, whole grain breads and pastas, feta cheese, hummus, roasted red peppers, fresh fish–are you hungry yet? The above foods (and more!) are staples of the Mediterranean diet, an ancient lifestyle that regularly gets good press for its heart-healthy benefits. Now, thanks to a new MRI study, we can add enhanced brain volume to the list!
The study, led by researchers from Columbia University, was presented last month at the 67th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.
The large study looked at 674 participants from different backgrounds who were at least 65 years old. Participants filled out an extensive survey about their eating habits, and were ranked on a scale of 1-9, depending on how closely they followed the Mediterranean diet. They found that the participants with the highest scores (9) had more brain volume in both gray and white matter. The researchers noted that higher scores were often attained by an abundance of fish, rather than meat, in the diet.
One of the study’s investigators, Dr. Yian Gu, presented the findings at the conference, saying, “Our study suggests that adhering to [the Mediterranean diet] may prevent cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s Disease by maintaining the brain structure or delaying age-related atrophy.”