Study links better diet with a larger brain

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By Alice Tuohy | Wednesday 16 May 2018

Neurology: Better diet quality relates to larger brain tissue volumes. The Rotterdam Study.

Researchers in the Netherlands have looked at the diet of a group of healthy adults, finding a link between better diet and larger brains in midlife. The study is published today (Wednesday 16 May 2018) in Neurology.

Scientists studied over 4,000 middle-aged and older people who did not have dementia. The researchers used questionnaires to measure the quality of people’s diet and took MRI scans of the brain. They found that a better diet quality was related to a larger brain volume including an increase hippocampal size, the region of the brain important for the recollection of memory. However, this study did not look at any effect on people’s memory or thinking abilities.

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK said:

“While many previous studies looking at the link between diet and brain health have focused on individual nutrients or specific dietary components, in this study researchers examined the overall quality of participants’ diets.

“Although brain size can be a useful indicator of brain health, this measure does not allow us to draw any firm conclusions about how diet quality relates to the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s, or the symptoms of dementia.  While this study looked at a large number of people, it relied on participants reporting their eating habits, and people do not always present their behavior accurately in this kind of self-assessment.

“Existing research suggests that a healthy diet may help to reduce the risk of dementia, and Alzheimer’s Research UK is supporting pioneering research into ways we can encourage people at risk of dementia to adopt a Mediterranean-based diet. “

“The best current evidence suggests that, as well as healthy eating, not smoking, only drinking in moderation, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, and staying mentally and physically active can all help us to maintain a healthy brain as we age.”

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Alice Tuohy