How Olives & Feta Can Save Your Aging Brain

by Myla Cruz

A new study published in the scientific journal Neurology finds that a Mediterranean diet—a regimen of fresh vegetables, fruit and even the occasional drink—could help preserve the mind as it ages. The findings were published just last week and stands as the latest research to showcase a diet with proven and palpable benefits for the aging brain.

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As we age, the brain naturally decreases in size, but the study found that individuals in their mid-70s who ate a Mediterranean-style diet lost less brain mass than study subjects who ate a diet more common of their native Scotland, typically high in saturated fats, processed meats and sugar.  

"We found that lower adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with greater three-year reduction in total brain volume," Michelle Luciano, professor at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, wrote in the report. 

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Researchers gathered information on the eating habits of 967 Scottish people around age 70 who also received a series of MRI brain scans over the course of several years to measure overall brain volume, gray matter volume, and thickness of the cortex to acquire their results. 

The team found those who ate more fruits, vegetables, olive oil and less fried food, red meat, and cheese had less brain shrinkage. On average, participants brains shrank at about half the rate that would normally be expected over the time period. 

Dr. David Knopman, a professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, explains, 

"Loss of brain volume is an inevitable part of the aging process, [but] a  bigger brain is in general better for you because at least in late life, it makes a person more resistant to the effects of brain diseases.” According to Knopman, people who have larger brains can tolerate more brain pathology and more brain illness than those who have smaller brains. 

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In short, more consumption of foods found within a Mediterranean diet equals a bigger and more sustainable brain, bettering the chances of preventing the development of brain illnesses such as Alzheimer's and dementia. 

The Mediterranean diet is plant-rich, treating meats and sweets as occasional indulgences. It’s very much about replacing ingredients like butter with good fats like olive oil. Adopting healthy habits like this diet is what our new show Altar’d! Is all about, as it challenges couples to get in the best possible shape for their weddings. 

What Mediterranean foods or meals can commonly be found in your diet? We love to hear from you! Share with us in the comment section below. 

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