Wow! The “MedDiet” is also linked to healthier brains … more gray matter!

One dietary plan that keeps showing up in the medical literature is the Mediterranean Diet (the “MedDiet”).  I have written about some of the health benefits before because …. well … the MedDiet is not a “diet”, it is a way of choosing our foods.  It has nothing to do with restricting calories.

Last week we looked at how the MedDiet improves mood and memory in just 10 days!  In February we looked at how the MedDiet combates Metabolic Syndrome .  In March we talked about the anti-aging effects of the MedDiet .

Now, a new study  from a research team at Columbia University shows that following a MedDiet is associated with preserved (larger) brain volume throughout adulthood.  As we age, our brains become smaller (this is called atrophy) and this is associated with things like decreased memory, problem solving, mental sharpness and even Alzheimer’s Disease.

In this study, the researchers did brain MRIs on the participants looking at brain volume (size) and cortical thickness.  Cortical thickness is directly associated with improved learning and mental functioning.  It is the “gray matter” of our brains!  This study included 674 people living in New York City.  Their adherence to a MedDiet eating style was scored from 0 to 9 (zero equaling no MedDiet and 9 being the highest adherence to a MedDiet).  The MRI results showed larger total brain volume and total gray matter volume in the participants scoring in the higher range (5 – 9) than the low scorers (0-4).

The researchers also looked at 9 different food components and found that higher fish intake was associated with the best MRI results as was lower meat intake.   In this study they did not look at how the fish was prepared but other researchers have found that eating baked or broiled fish was associated with cognitive ability and more gray matter too!

What’s our take home message?
●  There is more evidence that following a Mediterranean style eating plan is a good idea.
●  We don’t need to be a “poster child” for the MedDiet to experience its benefits.
●  Take steps to move our family eating style toward a MedDiet.
●  Progress is important here, not perfection!
Remember that the MedDiet is based on a different “food pyramid” than the SAD Diet (Standard American Diet).  The MedDiet Food Pyramid  has 4 basic food groups:
# 1  –  Every meal:  fruits, vegetables, grains (mostly whole), olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs and spices –
#2   –  Eaten often, at least two times per week: fish and seafood  –
#3   –  Eaten in moderate portions daily or less often but at least weekly: poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt  –
#4   –  Eaten on occasion: meats and sweets.

Last month was Mediterranean Diet month!  Were you inspired to pay attention to your food choices?  I hope you were.  And how about combining organic with it!  That is the focus around our house for sure.  We are consistent on “going organic” and each week we make a mental effort on “going Mediterranean” too.  It really isn’t an effort, it’s a habit that just gets easier all the time.  Hey, the food is delicious and healthy.  Delicious and Healthy!!  I can’t think of a good reason not to enjoy these benefits … and my gray matter agrees!  Yours does too I bet …

Additional Resources:
Why Metabolic Syndrome is not good

Baked or broiled fish boost brain health

The grey matter of the brain

Washington State’s List of Safe Fish

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