The Mediterranean Diet - Detail - ©

Mediterranean Diet: Can It Preserve Brain Function?

In my daily monitoring of food issues news services, I see just as many stories about the Mediterranean Diet as I do about the Obesity Crisis – and that’s a lot! Now, some more good news from the folks who recently brought you word of a potential Magic Bullet for Obesity… Lab Scientists!

The Mediterranean Diet - © oregonsportsnews.comThe Mediterranean Diet (pictured above) has been shown to offer
benefits for an amzingly broad range of health issues…

Who would have thought that lab scientists would one day be hailed as heroes in the battle against some of the worst health curses faced by contemporary humankind? Not me. But in light of a string of stories about recent lab studies that confirmed new theories about old, supposedly intractable issues, I think I may be verging on conversion – finally – to the Med Diet…

Take my recent exposée about a new substance that could be given in pill form to reduce obesity in just about anyone. I used to say it was never going to happen. The real world doesn’t work that way; only in Disney movies. But I was proven wrong.

Now, a new study often referenced in stories of mine that patiently explained the ‘only known cure for Obesity is Diet and Exercise’  have been joined on the ‘Impossible Seems True’ stage by another claiming the Med Diet can help improve your Brain function later in life…

What they did

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh tested the thinking skills of more than 500 people aged 79 and without dementia.

The participants completed tests of problem solving, thinking speed, memory, and word knowledge, as well as a questionnaire about their eating habits during the previous year. More than 350 of the group also underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan to gain insights into their brain structure.

The team used statistical models to look for associations between a person’s diet and their thinking skills and brain health in later life.

What they found

According to an abstract of the study’s final report, ” The findings show that, in general, people who most closely adhered to a Mediterranean diet had the highest cognitive function scores, even when accounting for childhood IQ, smoking, physical activity and health factors. The individual components of the diet that appeared to be most strongly associated with better thinking skills were green leafy vegetables and a lower red meat intake.”

The takeaway

And the above confirms what Med Diet boosters have been saying all along about the multitudinous benefits of the regimen.

Dr, Janie Corley, of the University of Edinburgh observes: “Eating more green leafy vegetables and cutting down on red meat might be two key food elements that contribute to the benefits of the Mediterranean-style diet. In our sample, the positive relationship between a Mediterranean diet and thinking skills is not accounted for by having a healthier brain structure, as one might expect. Though it’s possible there may be other structural or functional brain correlates with this measure of diet, or associations in specific regions of the brain, rather than the whole brain, as measured here.”

My take

Okay! So, get on with your personal conversion to a daily diet lighter in red meats and  higher in green, leafy veggies and brightly-coloured veggies in general. What’s stopping you? I suspect it’s the same excuses that folks rely on for not getting off their fat butts and switching to diets with more whole grains, as suggested in another recent post in this space.

But to be fair: the middle of the most serious pandemic anyone alive has ever experienced and an accompanying economic crisis is probably not a great time to ask them to make serious changes in their familiar, comfortable routines.

Anyway… In light of the recent upsurge in interest, by the masses, in memory and brain function enhancers sold in the Health Food and Health Supplement stores, I think what we may be seeing is a premature decay (temporary, I hope) in the brain function and thinking skills of many home-workers and newly unemployed folks, brought on by a year of isolation, lack of mental stimulation, and bad eating habits in general, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

My advice (if anybody wants it) is to refrain from spending a lot of money on any those store-bought brain function products – at least until you’ve exhausted the opportunities that a Salad a Day and more Whole Grains may hold for you to improve your brain health…

~ Maggie J.