Mediterranean diet and brain health

A recent analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of overall and cardiovascular mortality.

We have all heard about the Mediterranean diet being heart-healthy, but it may also be good for your brain.

Recently published research in the Archives of Neurology found that people who eat a Mediterranean diet have less small blood vessel damage in the brain than those who eat a typical American diet, full of saturated fats, red meat and refined grains.

According to information posted on the Mayo Clinic website, a few key components of the Mediterranean diet include:

-Getting plenty of exercise

-Eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts

-Replacing butter with olive oil or canola oil

-Limiting red meat, refined sugar, salt, wheat and rice

-Eating fish and chicken at least twice a week

-Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)

Researchers from Columbia University and University of Miami examined the diets of 966 adults who filled out questionnaires about their food choices as part of the Northern Manhattan Study, a longitudinal study evaluating behavioral affects on long-term health. The groups were distinguished by how closely the subjects’ diets resembled a classic Mediterranean diet.

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) researchers looked at “white matter hyperintensities,” tiny markers that are visible on the scan and indicate damage to smaller blood vessels. These hyperintensities are caused by vascular damage that doesn’t lead to immediate symptoms or dramatic damage, but can affect brain performance over time.

Those subjects who had the highest ratios of monounsaturated (olive oil and nuts) to saturated (red meat and dairy) fat intake had the lowest amount of small blood vessel damage. Results were consistent when adjusted for age, sex, smoking, ethnicity, education, physical activity, vascular risk factors, and BMI.

It is important to note that this finding indicates an association — not a causal relationship. More study is needed to see if there are causal factors involved.

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