It is possible to slow down brain aging, and it can be done in a very pleasant way, by eating. In fact, as emerges from a very recent scientific research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition thanks to the work of an Israeli team, the Mediterranean diet, especially in its green version, which we will explain below, is able to attenuate brain atrophy that accelerates from the age of 50 (Kaplan et al, AJCN, 2022).
The link between the brain and diet
Cerebral atrophy is an age-related condition, can be assessed through magnetic resonance tests and is considered the first indicator of possible cognitive impairment. Indeed, the atrophy affecting the hippocampus is one of the most sensitive markers for neurodegeneration, especially in the early stages of the disease. However, lifestyle and diet have also been observed to significantly influence the risk of brain loss and Alzheimer's. Therefore, it is possible to act on these factors to protect the brain, preventing or at least slowing down atrophy. Previous studies have already observed that the Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduced risk of developing brain atrophy and dementia. It is believed that this protective effect is due to the polyphenols provided by this type of diet, which perform an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action. However, the available data are sparse and often refer to studies conducted on very limited population samples and performed for too short periods of time.
The Mediterranean diet fights brain atrophy
To better understand the effect of the Mediterranean diet on the brain, the researchers developed a study performed on a large sample of the population and capable of spanning several months. 284 adults, aged between 31 and 82 years, were recruited. The study participants were divided into three groups. The first group was asked to follow a healthy and varied diet for 18 months, the second to eat according to the guidelines of the Mediterranean diet, with a regular intake of nuts, and the third to follow the Mediterranean diet in its green version. The green Mediterranean diet requires you to drink every day 3-4 cups of green tea or a smoothie based on Mankai, or duckweed, considered a powerful superfood. Not only that, this type of diet involves limiting the intake of red and processed meats. Before and at the end of the study, the volunteers underwent MRI examinations to assess the state of the brain. What emerged is that brain atrophy accelerates significantly after the age of 50 and this has already been noted in an 18-month period. But the scientists were also able to observe that brain atrophy was significantly attenuated in the groups that followed both versions of the Mediterranean diet. This attenuation was greater in the group that followed the green Mediterranean diet, especially in those over the age of 50. And that's not all. In fact, the researchers were able to note that the attenuation of brain atrophy is also associated with an improvement in insulin sensitivity.
Therefore, adhering to the Mediterranean diet, perhaps adding green tea and reducing the intake of red and processed meats, is certainly a good choice to protect the brain from neurodegeneration.