A recent study published in Archives of Neurology shows that the Mediterranean diet can work wonders for long term brain health. Researchers found that people on a predominantly Mediterranean-style present a lower risk of neurodegeneration.
According to a study carried out at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and published in a past issue of Archives of Neurology, the Mediterranean-style diet promotes brain health. The diet, based on traditional eating patterns of peoples from Greece, Spain and Southern Italy, can reduce the stress on the capillary blood vessels located in the brain.
Diet may influence blood flow to the brain
The researchers pointed out that ultra-white patches in the brain, known as white matter hyperintensities (WMHs), are the markers of chronic capillary damage and can be associated with a high risk of stroke, cognitive decline, dementia and even death. Previous studies had already shown that white matter hyperintensity indicates injury to the axons in brain and that it may likely represent a loss of blood flow.
“Although diet may be an important predictor of vascular disease, little is known about the possible association between dietary habits and WMHs. Studies have suggested that consumption of a MeDi (Mediterranean Diet) is associated with a reduced risk of the metabolic syndrome, coronary heart disease, stroke and cognitive disorders, but no studies to date, to our knowledge, have examined the association between a MeDi and WMH volume (WMHV)”, explained the science team.
To investigate the impact of food on small blood vessel health, lead study author Dr. Hannah Gardener of the University of Miami evaluated data collected from 966 participants who had been asked to fill in a questionnaire on their dietary patterns over the last year. Dr. Gardener’s team used the questionnaire answers to determine each participant’s MeDi compliance score, using a scale of 0 to 10.
High MeDi compliance correlates with better overall health
Consequently, it was revealed that out of 966 participants, 11,6% scored between 0 and 2; 15.8% scored 3; 23% scored 4; 23,5% scored 5 and 25,1% scored between 6 and 9. The results showed that, on average, men have higher MeDi scores than women and tend to report more intense physical activity. In addition to this, participants who scored 6 or higher had lower levels of body fat when compared to the others.
According to the science team, the study results reveal that participants with a higher MeDi compliance score have a lower burden of white matter hyperintensity volume, which means they are less likely to develop stroke or degenerative diseases. However, other lifestyle choices also come into play, such as smoking, physical activity, BMI, hypertension, diabetes and history of heart disease.
“In summary, the current study suggests a possible protective association between increased consumption of a MeDi and small vessel damage. The associations with WMHV may be driven by the favorable ratio of monounsaturated fat consumption over saturated fat. However, the results of the analysis of the individual MeDi scale components suggests that the overall dietary pattern, rather than any of the individual components, may be more etiologically relevant in relation to WMHV”, concluded Dr. Gardener.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes the consumption of plant-based meals, fresh fruits and vegetable salads, as well as extra virgin olive oil as the main source of fat. Fish and poultry are permitted in small amounts, as is organic wine. A typical Mediterranean diet consists of about 25% fat, with only 8% or less saturated fats.
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