Mediterranean Diet May Preserve Brain Structural Connectivity
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Wednesday, August 12, 2015 12:00 AM

The Mediterranean diet may help preserve structural connectivity in the brain in older adults, results of a French study hint.  Greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with preserved microstructure in extensive areas of the white matter up to a decade later, the study team found. And this appeared to be related to strong cognitive benefit, equal to up to 10 years of delayed cognitive aging for those with the greatest adherence, they say.

"This is to our knowledge the first study investigating the associations of the Mediterranean diet to brain structure in humans, focusing not only on grey matter volume but also on white matter architecture.  The findings give mechanistic clues on the link between the Mediterranean diet and lower cognitive aging which have been suggested in previous research." 

The Mediterranean diet has been associated with a lower risk for Alzheimer's disease, but the underlying mechanisms have been unclear.

"Our results suggest that the Mediterranean diet helps preserve the connections between neurons, which appear to be damaged with aging, vascular brain diseases and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's dementia.  In addition, the regions which appeared preserved with greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet were extended and were not specific to a particular disease, suggesting that the Mediterranean diet may have the potential to prevent not only stroke ... but also multiple age-related brain pathologies." 

The added finding that none of the individual components of the Mediterranean diet was strongly associated with imaging results "supports our hypothesis that overall diet quality may be more important to preserve brain structure than any single food," they write.

The findings support a growing literature indicating that diet does matter to brain health.