Your Aging Brain

As sustainable living necessarily includes health and vitality, here’s a recent piece of research that provides a path to longer term high performance of our brain. The “treatment” is simple enough: just the right diet.

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Less Shrinkage:

This Is Your Aging Brain

on the Mediterranean Diet

 

January 4, 2017

LA Times

 

The aging brain is a shrinking brain, and a shrinking brain is, generally speaking, a brain whose performance and reaction time are declining: That is a harsh reality of growing older.

But new research shows that brain shrinkage is less pronounced in older folks whose diets hew closely to the traditional diet of Mediterranean peoples — including lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and olive oil, little red meat and poultry, and regular, moderate consumption of fish and red wine.

In a group of 562 Scots in their 70s, those whose consumption patterns more closely followed the Mediterranean diet experienced, on average, half the brain shrinkage that was normal for the group as a whole over a three-year period.

To glean how diet might influence brain aging, researchers tapped into a large group of Scottish people who were all born in 1936 and had many measures of health status and lifestyle tracked from an early age. In recent years, studies have sought to tease out not only how great the benefits are, but how they work:

 

  • Whether healthier brain-aging is a function of better vascular health or preserved brain volume; and …

 

  • Whether the diet’s advantages lie in its dearth of red meat, the positive effects of the fatty acids in fish or olive oil, or the combined benefits of its plant-based foods.

 

Contrary to some research findings on the Mediterranean diet, the findings suggest that reduced brain shrinkage is not specifically linked to low intake of meat and high intake of fish. Maybe, the authors suggest (and many researchers believe this), the magic in the Mediterranean diet is all those plant-based foods, acting collectively to improve subjects’ cognitive health.

Finally, the researchers wrote, the study’s design helps establish that the brain-shrinkage rates seen are likely to be the result of dietary patterns, and not just an association.

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You can likely Google whatever volume of information you wish about what the Mediterranean diet consists of, so you can try it and see how you feel after a few months.

What I like about this research is that it’s not about longevity – as we could get hit by a bus tomorrow. It’s about being able to live at the best level we can live during our lifetime – “cognitive health” – however long that happens to be.

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