Mediterranean Diets & Brain-Health, Start Early & Reap The Benefits:
For many people, the main focus of their health-maintenance efforts is on diet.
If you’ve been to any checkout aisle, plans of all types are pretty popular.
But regardless of which one they choose, most people are after them for one reason:
That’s a good problem to solve first, but scientists are finding out you may need a good diet for more than one reason.
They might make a difference not just in how good you look,
But also in how well your body and most-importantly, Your Brain runs…
An Even Better Reason To Watch Your Diet:
So sometimes we can tend to be a little-bit short-sighted and superficial.
In addition to gaining weight because we don’t eat slowly enough,
Most of what we worry about is how we look.
And more-importantly, the stuff we Don’t worry about can be much more serious.
And the short answer is: Adhering to two specific types of diets was found to keep not just people’s bodies healthy, but also their brains,
By margins approaching 50% better when compared to people on unhealthy plans.
And the best diet in the study was again the recent-favorite, The Mediterranean Diet.
Read on to find out the rest…
It’s Not Just About Fat:
So the studiers thought that being at a healthy-weight was a great idea.
But just like a computer-system, it’s not just about the number of calories,
If you put garbage in, you get garbage out.
So their idea was to test-out some specific diet-types that have been devised not just to help people in-terms of energy-in vs. energy-out,
But also the specific foods and the quality of their constituents to see if they really mattered.
Remember, over-simplified plans like “The Hacker’s Diet” completely ignore this and look only at calories in/out.
-Strange for a computer programmer, eh?
So Here Are The Plans They Studied:
In this recent work led by Dr. Claire McEvoy from Queen’s University at Belfast,
The diets studied were:
1) The DASH Diet
2) The APDQS Diet
3) The Mediterranean Diet
These plans all have different Inclusions & Exclusions as follows:
1) The DASH Diet:
1a) Good/Encourages: Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, Low-Fat Dairy; Some Fish, & Poultry; With Fewer Legumes, Seeds and Nuts
1b) Bad/Discourages: Red Meat, Added/Excess Fats, Saturated Fat, Sweets, Salt, and Alcohol
2) The APDQS Diet:
2a) Good/Encourages: Fruits, Vegetables, Legumes, Low-Fat Dairy, Fish, and Moderate Alcohol
2b) Bad/Discourages: Fried foods, Salty Processed Snacks, Sweets, High-Fat Dairy, and Sugary Soft-Drinks
3) The Mediterranean Diet:
3a) Good/Encourages: Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, Mono-Unsaturated Fats (like Olive Oil), Poultry, Fish, Nuts, Legumes, Moderate Red Wine, Herbs & Spices
3b) Bad/Discourages: Red Meat, Butter, Salt, and Full-Fat Dairy
And Here’s What They Found:
In about 2600 subjects who started the study at about the age of 25,
Who were then followed sporadically for 30 years, surveyed at the 1st year, 7th year, and the 20th year,
The participants were grouped into segments of tolerance at how closely they followed any of the 3 diets.
These results were then also controlled for other habits, lifestyle-factors, and health-risks like Education, Smoking, Diabetes, and Physical Activity.
Even after factoring all that out, which is a big deal considering the power of Exercise,
The researchers found generally that despite how good they all look, 2 plans won and 1 lost.
Subjects who followed both the APDQS Diet and the Mediterranean Diet had significantly-improved brain-function,
Mediterranean Diet Brain-Power By The Numbers:
When they were surveyed for thinking-problems at the ages of 50-55,
For those who were strict-followers of the APDQS Diet,
They were 52% percent less likely than non-adherents to have thinking problems if they stuck to the program.
And people strictly-following the Mediterranean Diet were 46% less-likely to have thinking problems than participants who really didn’t stick to the program.
For some reason, the DASH diet was not associated with any of the improved thinking-skill results of the other 2 plans.
Which is odd because it’s anti-hypertensive, and what is healthy for the heart is supposed to be healthy for the brain too…
The Usual Qualifiers First:
Now let’s familiarize ourselves with the typical study-reminder.
1) This is largely an observational-study.
2) Its sampling periods are very long
3) The results are self-reported
4) And the controls are loose
Any exactly-monitored diet study is about impossible to conduct,
Because humans do not like being treated as lab-rats.
So the researchers have to take subjects’ word for it.
If These Are All Supposed To Be Healthy, Why The Difference?:
But Dr. McEvoy speculates on one aspect: Alcohol.
The DASH Diet discourages it, even in Moderation.
And as noted before, there may be some type of protective-effect, even on the brain.
A recent Danish-study went so far as to guess that it might even help the brain clean itself.
And others have speculated that as many things that increase circulation also seem to help the brain,
That may be the route that Alcohol uses to do its magic, also.
Red Wine Is Brain-Cell Neutral And May Be Healthier:
-Even though Red Wine is perhaps the healthiest of all alcohols, due to its brain-cell-neutral effects from the resveratrol in it.
Making Red Wine the only drink you can have that is not neurotoxic.
And guess what older people drink, especially with Mediterranean food (except fish, of course).
So that alone may be one of the angles that Dr. Claire might choose to chase down as a cause.
And though no specific disease-names were given by the McEvoy team,
Good Habits Early Provide Great Benefits Later:
The implication is clear that if you start good-habits early, they can really impact you later down the road for the better.
And perhaps, maybe, help you stave-off things like Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
While many people, an increasing number in-fact, seem to be doing without exercise,
Not many people do well without food.
So researchers suggest that since people are going to be involved with food,
Improve What You Can:
Then they can make changes to what they take in that could actually extend and improve the quality of their lives,
Even if they don’t go the extra mile and improve them with the recommended 30 minutes of Cardio exercise they should be doing to get the full-benefit.
Either way, the results are looking-good.
Because this current work is another result in a series of studies that show diets like the Mediterranean are good for health.
So if Daniel Amen says “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life”,
Then what about changing your diet over to the Mediterranean first, and letting those brain-health benefits roll-in over time?
Photo Credits: “Mediterranean restaurant Mallorca”, by Birgl
• Source QUB
• More Coverage: HT – Med Diet May Lead To Bigger Brain
• Source Study: J.Neurology – Dietary patterns during adulthood and cognitive performance in midlife The CARDIA study