With a healthy diet you don't get old and you can protect your brain from degeneration! More and more studies are demonstrating the anti-aging and neuroprotective action of certain foods and lifestyles, such as the Mediterranean diet. And from today we have further proof that a diet based on fruit, vegetables, cereals, legumes, fish and extra virgin olive oil, according to the dictates of the Mediterranean Diet, protects the brain from the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. These are the results of a very recent scientific research published in the journal Neurology by a team of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, or DZNE, in Bonn (Ballarini et al, Neurology, May 2021).
Alzheimer's and the brain
Alzheimer's is a disease that causes the death of neurons. The main culprits of neuron death are accumulations of beta amyloid proteins, which form plaques between the neurons themselves, and tau proteins, which are instead found inside neurons. In addition, Alzheimer's disease also causes a rapid and progressive reduction in brain volume.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle that offers some important guidelines for a healthy and balanced diet. First of all, this type of diet favors vegetables, legumes, fruit, cereals, fish and sources of monounsaturated fatty acids, such as extra virgin olive oil. The Mediterranean diet is also characterized by a low intake of milk and dairy products, red and processed meats and saturated fats.
Diet and brain health, the experiment
To test the action of nutrition on brain health, the researchers recruited 512 people, with an average age of around 70 and healthy. Starting from the observation that people of this age tend to have almost constant habits regarding nutrition, the volunteers were asked to fill in a questionnaire specifying which foods, choosing from a list already proposed, they had consumed in the last month, indicating also the quantity and frequency with which they ate them. Not only that, the study participants also underwent a series of visits, to evaluate, through magnetic resonance, the brain volume and, with cerebrospinal fluid analysis, the presence of markers for accumulations of beta amyloid and tau proteins. Finally, the researchers also asked the volunteers to take tests to assess cognitive functioning and memory.
The Mediterranean diet contrasts the development of Alzheimer's
What emerged is that those who followed an unbalanced diet and far from the guidelines of the Mediterranean Diet, had higher values regarding the indicators of the presence of accumulations of beta amyloid proteins and tau compared to those who followed the Mediterranean Diet. Not only that, those who did not follow the Mediterranean diet also scored lower in cognitive function and memory tests. Scientists were also able to observe that those who followed the Mediterranean diet had a greater volume of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the area of the brain that is considered the memory control center and is also the part that shrinks the most and faster with the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Therefore, the researchers were able to observe a link between the Mediterranean diet and a reduction in accumulations of beta amyloid and tau proteins and in brain atrophy. Other studies will follow, with the aim of understanding exactly the mechanism underlying the protective action of the Mediterranean diet on the brain. For the moment, we certainly have one more reason to favor the consumption of fish, legumes, fruit, vegetables, cereals and extra virgin olive oil!